Simple Household Tips That Will Save You Thousands of Dollars
These days, people are willing to go to any extreme to save a few bucks. But we're not going to tell you to eat beans and rice or wash your hair with eggs. There are ways to save that are sitting right under our noses –– and our roofs. Here are some simple household savings tips that could save you hundreds of dollars a year.
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- Install low-flow water faucets and save up to 60 percent on your water bill. Do you really need a faucet with fire hydrant strength flow to do the dishes? Chances are the answer is no, and by simply replacing your faucets with low-flow models, you could cut your water bill by 25 to 60 percent. They cost around $10 to $20 a piece, which is well worth the investment.
- Update your light bulbs and save up to 75 percent on your electricity bill. Switching out old light bulbs for compact fluorescent could save up to 75 percent on your electric bill. Yes, they cost a bit more than traditional bulbs, but they last 10 to 25 times longer and use power more efficiently. Only 6 percent of the electricity sucked up by traditional bulbs (those older than 14 or 15 years) is turned into light –– the rest becomes very inefficiently used heat.
- Unplug your electronics at night and save $100 per year. The typical American home has 40 electronics powered up at any given moment –– TV, cell phone chargers, blenders, etc. What people don't realize is they are using electricity even when they're powered off. U.S. households spend as much as $100 per year powering these "vampire" electronics. Simple fix: Plug your devices into power strips and switch them off at once at the end of the day.
- Insulate your hot water heater to save up to 9 percent on utilities. Insulating your hot water tank (and the pipes around it) is an simple way to save money on utilities, since it keeps heat from escaping and getting wasted in colder months. Buy a $20 insulating blanket and you'll be able to trap in up to 40 percent more heat, saving as much as 9% on your bill.
- Seal windows and doorways to save 20 percent on heating costs. A third of a home's total heat is lost through drafty windows and doors, and the EPA estimates sealing up cracks and adding proper insulation can save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs. Try using insulated window shades, weatherstrips or plastic film kits to seal up openings. Caulk is also a simple way to fill cracks in floors, windows and doorways. For drafty basement or attic windows, try gluing a piece of foam board to 3/8-inch drywall and fitting it snugly into the window frame.
- Stop buying bottled water and save $2,000 for a family of four. Bottled water is one of the biggest money sucks out there. If drinking from the tap is too much to bear, investing in a water filter is a simple and cost-effective alternative. An example from TLC found a family of four throws away more than $3,000 on bottled water per year. With a basic pitcher-style filtration system (about $20 + a new filter every 40 gallons), they would spend just $119. Savings: $2,900.
- Use curtains and blinds to cut cooling costs by 45 percent. Summer and winter are the best times to use curtains sun as a natural heating/cooling system. Highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45% during summer. The opposite applies in winter, when you should use window treatments to trap heat in. Most conventional draperies can reduce heat loss from a warm room up to 10%.
- Use free veterinarian clinics to save up to $340 per year. Even if your pet is the picture of good health, annual veterinarian checkups can cost up to $140 for kittens and puppies and as much as $340 for geriatric cats and dogs. Save by seeking out free clinics, which some vets host one or two times a year. "My husband and I always schedule check-ups and vaccinations during these times," writes Kendal Perez of Hassle-free Savings. "If your vet doesn't offer this service, check with your local Humane Society or animal-control unit for recommendations."
- Stop buying all-organic produce and watch your grocery bill shrink. Plenty of regular produce isn't "dirty" (ie: laden with pesticides) enough to warrant paying top dollar (as much as 150% more) for organic versions anyway. For example, avocados are one of the cleanest foods out there, and organic versions cost an extra $1 a piece. The Environmental Works Group has an excellent chart detailing the "dirty" and "clean" products we should worry about.
- Ignore 'Sell By' dates to stop wasting food and save $6,000 a year. The average American wastes about $28 to $43 in food each month, roughly 20 pounds of food, according to the National Resource Defense Council. This has to stop. It helps to start ignoring "Sell-by” and “use-by” dates. They are not federally regulated and do not indicate safety, except on certain baby foods, the NRD says. They are simply suggestions, and a lot of foods can last at 15 days after those dates. When in doubt, throw it in the freezer to get the most out of it.
- Browse the web for coupon codes before buying anything online. If you're shopping online without browsing for coupon codes, you're missing out on a lot of potential savings power. We love RetailMeNot, CouponSherpa, and Coupons.com, all of which have handy apps you can use on your phone. And we use Freeshipping.org to find all sorts of coupon codes for free shipping online.
- Plan your shopping trips around common sales cycles. Everyone knows the best times to find deals on summer clothing is typically in winter, and vice versa. But there are even more sales cycles to learn about and leverage. For example, winter is high season for sporting goods, boats, computers and wedding supplies, according to Mint.com. Spring is best for electronics, cookware, and thrift store deals. As it happens, March is known for excellent deals on frozen foods. There's a great list of grocery sales cycles at livingrichlyonabudget.com.
- Invest in a programmable thermostat and save $180 per year. If you work long hours or are away from home much of the time during the week, a programmable thermostat is a no-brainer. It adjusts heat and cooling settings according to a pre-set schedule, saving up to $180 each year in energy costs.
- Change your car's air filter and save up to $450 per year. If left unchanged, air filters get clogged up with gunk that can cut your fuel efficiency by 10 to 20 percent. At current gas rates for a typical driver, that could cost up to $450 more each year. Change the filter yourself or drop $25 for a mechanic to do it. How often you change it depends on your road and weather conditions, but the general rule of thumb is every 10,000 to 12,500 miles.
- Clean your dryer lint trap to increase efficiency by 75 percent. It seems like a no-brainer but forgetting to clean the lint trap on your dryer makes a huge difference. Depending how much lint builds up and the type of dryer you have, you could see your efficiency reduced by 75 percent. And a less efficient dryer means two things: Higher energy bills and a shorter lifespan for your appliance.
- Use the right-sized cookware and save $36 per year. Size does matter when it comes to picking out cookware. Using pots and pans with flat bottoms that fit the burners can mean the difference between saving or wasting a ton of energy. For example, a 6" pot on an 8" burner wastes over 40 percent of that burner's heat. The average savings earned by using the right pots are about $36 annually for an electric stove and $18 for a gas range.
- Boil water in a microwave other than a stove to waste 60 percent less energy. Boiling water in a microwave rather than on an electric stove-top uses 60% less energy. "Simply put, for every cup boiled in the microwave, it takes me about four minutes less time to do it than on the stove top," says Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar. "It also saves approximately $0.03 doing it that way."
- Regularly check your car's tire pressure and save $0.11/gallon at the pump. The health of your tire's tread and air pressure can increase your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent, for a savings of $0.11 per gallon. You can find the proper pressure specifications on a manufacturer's note (usually found on the inside of the driver's door).
- Take shorter showers and save $100 per year. A bath requires up to 70 gallons of water. A five-minute shower uses only 10 to 25 gallons. You don't need a math whiz to realize the potential savings by changing your bathing routine. Take this example from the Christian Science Monitor: "Let’s say that you take a twelve minute shower every day, and your shower head produces two gallons of water per minute. If you cut that down to four minutes, you’re saving sixteen gallons of water per shower, or 5,840 gallons per year. Depending on where you are, that will save you $10 to $100 a year in water usage, according to these rates."
- Change your A/C filter every three months. In an ideal world, you should check the filter in your A/C unit each month, especially during the winter and summer. But the EPA recommends changing it out at least four times a year. All the dirt it sucks in can really cramp its efficiency and drive up your heating/cooling costs –– not to mention saving you a visit from the repairman when grimy build up wears it out.
- Buy produce when it's in-season and save up to 15 percent on grocery bills. If you buy produce when it's out of its natural growing season, chances are you'll not only get an inferior product, but you'll pay more for it, too. Ethnic grocery stores are an excellent source for regionally-specific produce like avocados, mangoes and limes, and buying produce that is in season could help you save 10 to 15 percent on average ($30/year).
- Bike to work if you live within a few miles from the office. Due to rising fuel costs and tire upkeep, the cost of owning a car increased nearly 2 percent in 2012 to $8,946, according to AAA. It costs just $308 per year to keep bikes in shape––nearly 30 times less than cars, per the Sierra Club: "If American drivers were to make just one four-mile round trip each week with a bicycle instead of a car, they would save nearly 2 billion gallons of gas. At $4 per gallon, total savings would be $7.3 billion a year."
- Shop around for home insurance policies and save 25 percent. You're only cheating yourself if you haven't shopped around for a better home insurance policy. Insurance companies will negotiate if they're not willing to lose a customer and you can come up with a better rate somewhere else. You can also try raising your deductible in order to cut your overall cost by 25 percent. Find free insurance quotes through Insure.com or InsWeb.com.