February 26, 2014

Saving on Utilities: (Saving for a Dream, part 5)

Here we are again... let's continue with some more ways to save money so that we will have enough left over to start chipping away at our goals towards our dreams. And as always, if you are new here,  be sure to check back on part 1 , part 2 (setting goals), part 3 (setting a budget), and part 4 (saving on housing). Up this week, some tips for saving money on utilities.



1. Cut the Cable Cord- With maybe the exception of watching the Olympics, it is becoming less and less necessary to pay for TV. Not only will you save quite a bit of money but you will probably get more done as well without cable. And you don't even have to sacrifice your favorite shows (as long as you are willing to be patient). You can get many shows for free on Hulu (if you are willing to wait a week or two sometimes). And for the rest you can usually get them either for free at the library (if you are willing to wait for them to come out on DVD), or for less than a month of cable through the iTunes store or Amazon Instant Video. Also check to see if your library ofters Hoopla (similar to Netflix, but free with certain library memberships).
Our Story: We have never actually had cable, but we are now experts at finding free (and legal) ways to get a few favorite shows. We use a combination of all the methods mentioned above.
Photo by Ian L freerangestock.com

2. Work the System for Cheaper Internet- Broadband is ridiculously expensive. But there are a few tricks you can use to lower your costs. Take advantage of promotional deals and don't be afraid to switch providers (assuming you have that option). Often if you call your provider and ask for a deal (especially if you threaten to switch to the competitor) they can offer you deals that will help lower your bill. And if they can't, don't be afraid to switch providers from time to time. It is just like shopping for cheaper car insurance. Annoying and kind of time consuming, but it can reduce your bill by 20-50%.
Our Story: I am so grateful that internet is included as part of our rent these days, because it was such a pain before. Every 6 months I called in before our rates increased. And in the end we did switch providers after our original provider eventually tried to call our bluff...
3. Share with Family Members or Friends- Share a cellphone plan, Netflix subscription, etc. with your family. Netflix can be shared with up to 5 users, cellphone plans usually charge less to add an additional line than to open a separate account. Take turns paying bills, or just pay your family members back.
Our Story: Or you could mooch off them like we often do for services we might go without otherwise... love you parents!

Photo by Chance Angrella, freerangestock.com

4. Turn Down the Heat- Programmable thermostats are awesome... set-it and forget it! Keep it cool enough to be comfortable with a sweater when you are awake and home, then turn it down even lower during the night or if you leave for the day for work. They can even be fairly inexpensive (such as this Honeywell Programmable Thermostat). I personally look forward to the day when I can go out to the woods to find our source of heat for the winter! Oh, and also consider turning down your water heater to 120° F while you are at it!
Our Story: One of the unintended benefits of moving into the apartment has been that with the surrounding units as buffers to the cold, we don't need to turn on our heat nearly as often!
5. Scrap the Air-conditioner- Maybe not advisable if you live in Pheonix or Miami (but remember that you don't need to keep it 60° all summer either), but certainly doable elsewhere. My family spent 5 years in central California without air-conditioning. Just invest in a couple big box fans to cool down the house at night. Then close the windows through the heat of the day. It will definitely be warm by the evening, but it really will be ok.
Our Story: The hottest days of summer can be a little unpleasant, but I almost view it as a badge of honor that I have never owned an air-conditioner!
6. Give Your House (or Apartment) an Energy Efficiency Overhaul- This could be as simple as replacing the old weather stripping on your doors, making sure that the caulking around your windows is in good order, and insulating your water heater with a blanket. Or it could include investing in additional insulation and better windows. Either way this will help keep your house warm in the winter and cool in the summer so that you don't have to rely on the air conditioner or the heater! For many more tips on how to increase your house's energy read the US Department of Energy's very comprehensive handbook.
Our Story: We were especially vigilant at insulating our water heater and sealing all our nooks and cranies at our previous two residences. Luckily our current apartment seemed to have much of the work done for us before we moved in!
7. Turn off the Lights- And switch to LED lights (even better than CFLs...they last longer, take less energy, and don't contain mercury!). When your appliances go out, consider switching to energy efficient appliances. Also unplug all your electrical devices when you aren't using them to avoid drawing a slow vampire current (or at least plug them into a power strip that you turn off when not in use.)
Our Story: Nathan is still working on training me to be vigilant to always turn off our lights and to unplug the appliances after I am done with them, but I am much better than I use to be! We also just bought our first set of LED lights to replace some of our burnt-out CFLs. Read about it here.

Photo by Depu Das, freerangestock.com

8. Use a Clothesline- There is something so nice about hanging up your laundry on a nice summer day (there is even a movement to promote it... April 19th is National Hanging Out Day). And it saves a lot on your electrical bill. If you are really committed, maybe even consider buying (or making) a few clothes racks for the winter or rainy days. Then maybe you can even skip buying a dryer.
Our Story: There is something so relaxing and comforting about it. However, we still haven't committed to air drying laundry in the winter yet.
9. Check into Off-Peak Use- some electric companies will give you a discounted rate if you use less energy during peak hours (usually during weekdays). It is usually worth looking into to see if your company offers this.
Our Story: We checked into Portland General Electric's program and determined it wasn't actually a good deal. However, my parents use Black Hills Power's demand control program, which even provides them a panel that monitors their electric usage and warns them if they are using too much power during peak hours. I we had something similar.

10. Take shorter showers- Or take fewer showers each week, or install a water saving shower-head. And be sure to turn off the water while you brush your teeth while you are at it. And you really should consider getting rid of that lawn (or at least not watering it during the summer).
Our Story: Another area where Nathan continues to train me... I could probably stay in a warm shower for an hour if you let me (unlike Nathan, the 3-min shower man).

Coming up next.... how to save on: Food & Grocery Bills (without resorting to Ramen and other processed foods)!
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(This post was shared at the Homestead Barn Hop, Natural Living Monday, Mostly Homemade Mondays, the Backyard Farming Connection Hop, Tuesday Greens, Tuesdays with a Twist, the Down Home Hop, Simple Lives Thursday, the Home Acre Hop, Old Fashioned Fridays, 104 Homestead Hop, and the Maple Hill Hop


  1. My fav is use a clothesline! It's a Zen thing for me. Sounds like you have a lot of great ideas for saving money. You'll be debt-free in no time!

  2. This is a great, detailed post. I'm excited to read the rest of the series. Hello from the Backyard Farming Connection Hop.

  3. We saved a lot by ditching the cable and gas dryer. You're right about there being plenty of free entertainment on the Internet. No clothes dryer takes some planning in snowy Michigan. There is only so much space in the house to hang clothes, but we manage;) Good tips and folks can save a bundle following them.


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