500 Great Ways to Save For Dummies
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As prices climb for nearly everything, from food to gas to health care and beyond, what can you do to spend less and save more? One way to save is to cut back on utility costs. In the winter, for instance, keep cold air outside and warm air inside by caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows. Keep your fireplace flue tightly closed. Seal any air leaks where plumbing or electrical wiring comes through the walls. Then make sure your home is insulated properly.

Following, are 34 ways to save money on utilities, including water, electricity, and heating and cooling.

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How to save on water costs

  1. One of the simplest things you can do to save money on utilities is to fix that leaky toilet. That steady draining can waste 200 gallons per day and hundreds of dollars a year on your water bill! Some fixes are free (the chain might just be hung up). You can replace the whole mechanism for about $20.
  2. Update every sink and tub with a new faucet or aerator marked with the WaterSense label. Aerators, which mix air into the water, can cut water consumption by 700 gallons per year.
  3. Most water heaters come from the factory set at 140 degrees — hot enough to scald. Turn it down to 120 degrees to avoid a safety risk, save money, and slow mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes.
  4. The next time your water heater quits, replace it with a tankless heater that costs about the same but is likely to last more than 20 years, as opposed to the 10- to 15-year life expectancy of a tank heater. Plus, tankless models are 24 to 34 percent more energy efficient. But tankless heaters can heat only so much water at once, so if you like to shower and run several appliances at once or have a large household, you may need more than one.
  5. Stop prewashing dishes if you have a modern dishwasher. It’s not necessary. Just scrape them off thoroughly into the garbage and load them. You’ll save about 55,000 gallons of water over the lifetime of the dishwasher. That can save about several hundreds of dollars, plus it’s good for the environment — and avoids lots of unnecessary work.
  6. Wash clothes in cold water. You’ll save around $60 in energy costs a year. Plus it’s gentler on your clothes and protects them from fading, shrinking, or bleeding. With today’s detergents, your clothes will be just as clean.
  7. Install a low-flow showerhead. You won’t even notice the difference, because a low-flow fixture reduces the volume of water but does not affect the water pressure in any way. Save 2,900 gallons a year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  8. Insulate your hot water lines. Preformed foam insulation jackets slip over hot water pipes. You can easily lower your energy bill by $40 per year.

How to save on electric bills

  1. Keep your stovetop shiny. When the metal pans that surround burners on older stovetops become blackened from charred spillover, they absorb heat. When they are clean and shiny, they reflect heat and require less energy to cook food.
  2. If the dish you are making will fit in your toaster oven, cook it in there. You can slash the energy cost by more than half over a full-size electric oven. You save time, too, because a toaster oven preheats much faster than a full-size oven.
  3. Banish power vampires to save money on home utility bills. The modern home has lots of devices that suck electricity even when turned off, costing an average of $100 per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Chargers for phones, tablets, and other cordless devices drink juice even when they are not charging anything — so unplug them. Likewise, unplug televisions, computers, cable boxes, and game consoles — anything with a little indicator light.
  4. Ask your utility companies for help. If you are having trouble paying your utility bill or want more information on how to lower your energy bills, your utility company should be your first contact. Many offer budget-billing programs in which you can pay a set amount each month.

    Some offer special protections for customers who have disabilities, are on Supplemental Security Income, are on medical life-support equipment, or are having difficulty paying their bill. The utility company will devise an affordable payment plan or put you in touch with a nonprofit that may be able to help. Ask about rate options as well. Some offer a low-income rate discount. Others offer time-of-use rates that lower bills if you can move your consumption off-peak.

  5. Install motion detectors. These sensors can be connected to lights, fans, or any other electrical device. They save energy dollars by automatically turning on the electrical device when you enter a room or area of your property and turning the device off when you leave. They can also make your home more secure by automatically turning on exterior lights if there is an intruder.
  6. Upgrading to LED lighting is another way to save money on utility bills. You can cut the amount of energy used by your light bulbs by up to 90 percent by switching to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) from traditional incandescent bulbs. LEDs also last 25 times longer, meaning you won’t spend as much on new bulbs over time.
  7. Test for a tight seal on your refrigerator by closing the door on a dollar bill; if you can easily pull the dollar out, the seal needs replacing.
  8. Verify your fridge settings. Place a thermometer in your refrigerator overnight and check it in the morning: The ideal temperature for food safety is slightly below 40 degrees, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Too cold wastes energy and money. Too warm is unsafe. If the temperature is off, adjust accordingly.
  9. Upgrade your appliances. Sure, that old refrigerator has been running since 1963. But it’s probably sucking up a lot of juice while it’s cooling your beer. New appliances with the Energy Star designation are more efficient than average appliances. Energy Star televisions, for example, use 3 watts or less when they are turned off, which is about 50 percent less than average.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency keeps a list of the most energy-efficient appliances.

How to save on heating and cooling bills

  1. When looking to save money on utilities in the winter, try lowering your home’s temperature by 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours a day. It could save you up to 10 percent a year on your heating bill. To help regulate your household temperature, install a programmable thermostat so the settings change automatically.
  2. If you're looking for ways to save money on utilities in the summer, draw the blinds when the sun is blazing. About 76 percent of the sunlight that hits your windows enters to generate heat inside your home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. A recent study found that 75 percent of blinds stay in the same position every day. Medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33 percent.
  3. If you have a ceiling fan, use it. The U.S. Department of Energy says that when you use air conditioning, a ceiling fan will let you raise the thermostat about four degrees in the summer. Fans that carry the Energy Star label move air 20 percent more efficiently than those that don’t. In the summer, you should set ceiling fans to go counterclockwise to blow air downward, according to Home Depot.
  4. Inspect for leaks at windows and doors with a candle or lighted incense stick. Sealing them can cut a $1,000 heating and cooling bill by $200. Really! Gaps can reduce air-conditioning efficiency by 20 percent or more. Hold a candle or an incense stick to the seams where two ducts connect; the smoke will tell you whether air is escaping. Tape it!
  5. Seal around outlets and switches. Stop chilly drafts by installing inexpensive foam gaskets available at most home improvement centers.
  6. Staying cool is tough enough during a massive heat wave, but add soaring energy prices and inflation to the mix and it can be downright expensive, too. In 2022, energy costs were up 41.6 percent year over year. Blasting the air conditioner all day and stocking up on an endless supply of bottled water aren’t your only options. Here are other ways to stay cool without breaking the bank:
    • Give your air conditioner a tune-up. If you do run your air conditioner, make sure it’s operating as efficiently as possible. Otherwise, the unit has to work harder, which means more money spent on energy. Simple upkeep, like changing the filters, can improve the unit’s performance. Experts say that with rising costs, you are trying to extend the lifetime of the unit so you don’t have to replace it in the near term. If your air conditioner has an energy-saver mode, use it.
    • Shun the oven and dryer. Reconsider cooking a three-course meal in a heat wave. Ovens give off heat, warming the room by a couple of degrees. The same goes for your dryer, which emits heat when in use. Avoiding it when the temperature is sizzling can be a cool strategy. Take advantage of the heat and air-dry your clothes.
    • Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water and using ice will lower your body temperature, keeping your cooler. You may not need to pay for bottled water; look into the safety of your tap water.
    • Keep it light. In cold weather wear a sweater, but in extreme heat the fewer clothes the better. Wearing loose-fitting, lightweight clothes and sleeping with sheets instead of heavy blankets can go a long way toward keeping you cool.
    • Tap your community. Many communities across the country provide places for people to stay cool during the summer months, including community centers, cooling stations, malls, and libraries. They are usually air-conditioned and don’t charge admission fees. Museums, movie theaters, and playhouses can be great places to stay cool and be entertained.
    • Shop around to save. Stocking up on water (if you don’t drink your tap water), ice cream, ices, or whatever you need to stay cool can add up. Without a doubt, inflation is making groceries more expensive, but take advantage of sales, loyalty clubs, and coupons. Pay attention to the price per unit when purchasing water. You want to ensure you’re getting the most for your money. If possible, buy your water in bulk to save.
  7. Get a furnace filter subscription. Changing your furnace filter every three months reduces heating bills and prolongs furnace life. But who remembers? Get a filter subscription (many online stores offer them) and stick in a new filter whenever one arrives.
  8. Cover your windows. Homes lose about 30 percent of their heating energy through windows in the winter, and 76 percent of sunlight that falls on double-pane windows becomes heat in the summer. Consider blackout curtains.
  9. Don’t cover vents. Make sure your heating and cooling air vents aren’t blocked by rugs, bookcases, or other furnishings. Blocking vents strains the furnace, shortening its life and increasing your energy bill.
  10. Stop fireplace drafts. Dampers alone rarely stop the flow of air through your chimney; a reusable inflatable plug or chimney draft stopper helps seal out the cold.
  11. Reinforce windows. If you have single-pane windows and can’t afford to add outside storm windows, install custom-fit acrylic or glass panes instead. These interior storm windows can be pressed into place and sealed to create an airtight fit.
  12. Reduce air-conditioning costs by as much as 10 percent by keeping AC condensers and window units shaded, perhaps by installing an overhead awning.
  13. For whole house HVAC, inspect the ductwork carefully and seal any seams or gaps. Doing so reduces the amount of chilled or heated air escaping through the ductwork by up to 20 percent.
  14. Many energy providers offer free or subsidized energy audits, which can identify problem areas in your home and offer suggestions and discounted solutions to fix them. They may also offer discounts for low-income users or deals for those who agree to preheat their home during off-peak hours.
  15. Tap into energy assistance aid with the following programs:
    • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, is a federal program that helps millions of low-income Americans afford to heat and cool their homes. If you need help paying your utility bills, replacing your furnace, weatherizing your home, or making other energy-related improvements, you can apply.

      Operated by the states, LIHEAP also provides crisis or emergency assistance for people who have received a shut-off notice or had their service disconnected. Details of the program vary by state. To apply, contact your state LIHEAP office or reach out through the National Energy Assistance Referral hotline at 866-674-6327.

    • Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP): Weatherization is one of the best ways to save on utilities, if not the best. The Weatherization Assistance Program, or WAP, helps low-income families lower their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient.

      The U.S. Department of Energy provides funding to states, U.S. overseas territories, and Indian tribal governments. Those governments have a network of nonprofits, community groups, and local government agencies that provide weatherization services to households in each state. More information is available at the Weatherization Assistance Program website or 888-771-9404. Special preference goes to families with someone 60 or older, children, or one or more members with a disability.

Tech to Save You Money

  1. Get a smart thermostat. In addition to operating on a set schedule, smart thermostats learn your temperature preferences, and some can sense if someone is in the room. You can operate them from your smartphone, tablet, or laptop to make the house cozy when you return.
  2. Buy a smart sprinkler controller. Tell the controller what type of soil, plants, or lawn you are watering, and the device will factor in the weather conditions and weather forecast to deliver exactly the amount of water your plants need.

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