(Photo: JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend/Offset)
By Allison Stadd
Saving money on monthly utility bills is one of the most unexpectedly easy ways to cut down on your cost of living. Expending the energy (so to speak) to make a few adjustments to your habits or get more information from your providers could add up to thousands in savings each year.
Below, five real tips from real people on saving cash on utilities.
Assess the situation. Start by evaluating exactly where your money is going each month so you can make tweaks accordingly. Once you have a grasp of which utility bills are costing you the most, you can make smart changes. Otherwise, you may spend concerted effort lowering a bill that really doesn’t affect your bottom line that much.
For example, marketing consultant Dani Ames, in noticing how high her heating bill could climb, now chooses to layer up and get cozy unless it’s truly necessary to turn on the heat. “It’s amazing how warm you can get wrapped up in a blanket,” she said.
Do some digging. Ames works from home, so utilities can be a considerable cost for her. Therefore, she keeps a careful eye on the bills. “When keeping track of my water bill, I noticed a big spike bill-over-bill,” she said. “I went out looking for a leak and sure enough found one under our deck. When I called the water department, they provided me a form for a one-time leak reimbursement.”
See the light (or don’t). Megan Boudouris, who works in global marketing, thinks green—for the environment but also cash savings—when it comes to electricity. “I do a sweep of electronics before bed and when I go away on weekends,” she said. “Turning off all electronics that aren’t in use is an easy quick fix.”
Even small gestures, like unplugging your phone when it’s done charging or shutting off your desktop computer, can really make a dent in your monthly electric bill. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, $10 billion is wasted every year on what’s called “vampire energy” (a.k.a. standby power).
Go energy-efficient. Boudouris also drove costs down on her utility bills by replacing all her light bulbs with energy-efficient ones. According to Energy Star, if every American home replaced one light bulb with Energy Star bulbs, which use 70 to 90 percent less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs, it would save more than $566 million in annual energy costs.
Join the cord-cutting movement. A full 25 percent of U.S. households currently do not subscribe to cable. Teacher Molly Johnsen is one of them. She chooses to watch TV online instead, shaving serious dollars off her monthly Internet/cable provider bill.
If you do still enjoy watching, say, live sports or the Oscars, programs that are difficult to watch without a cable subscription, look at removing select channels from your cable package or going a non-traditional TV route altogether. As senior retail manager Jenny Conrad says, “There are a lot of options these days that can help lower your overall cable costs. I’ve recently researched lowering my monthly bill by switching from standard cable to Apple TV-enabled subscriptions like DirecTV Now, which allow you to pick and choose what you want without the limitations of working with one provider.”
Here’s the real bottom line: spending less and living well do not have to be mutually exclusive. There’s no shortage of ways to save without feeling any negative effects; you just have to put in the work to get the payoff.