Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lower Your Bills the Old School Way

Sure, you've read article after article and seen commercial after commercial talk about utility/energy efficiency and lowering your bills in general. People always tighten the proverbial belt during hard economic times as these. This is part of the new novelty of personal finance I like to call "living sustainably." Sure you probably know the most common ways of reducing your power bill or water, but we'll talk about your other bills as well and what you can do about them. With a thorough personal budget review, I promise you will save at least $10 a month. That's worth a few minutes no?

Utilities: Energy. Yikes that's a biggy. Let's start outside the home. Your car burns gasoline until you have an electric car (then it runs on electricity). What many people neglect are monthly air pressure checks on your tires. Be honest. Do you check your air pressure monthly? It takes about 5 minutes with a portable pressure gauge and if the pressure is fine, you don't even need to bother filling the tires. However, if you have the correct pressure in your tire year-round, you are looking at at least 10%-20% savings on gasoline. The average gas bill for a year is around $600. That could be an extra $120 in the bank for a whopping 60 minutes of work a year, not to mention an hourly wage we'd all like.

Making sure your tires are aligned, your engine is serviced regularly, and so on, will only add to your car's efficiency. Don't believe me? Fill up will 10 gallons of fuel during an average work week and reset the trip meter. Write down how many miles the 10 gallons took you, when you are on empty. Now fill your tires to the correct air pressure, and get a oil change. Do the 10 gallon experiment again and see how many more miles your drove. With your receipts you can calculate exactly how much you saved. I bet it's at least $5. Or, worth it.

On to the electric bill, perhaps the most detested mother of all bills before cellphones were invented. We all know that CFL bulbs save money, big money. One regular incandescent bulb with 60 watts is only 13 watts as a CFL bulb. Over 78% less energy is used by these bulbs. Does every single, and I mean, no matter what size ballast, or bulb in your house use a CFL bulb? If not, buy a few at a time as they are still a bit pricey, but the savings will well pay off in terms of energy savings and the lifetime of the bulb.

Energy Star appliances are another area of electric savings. Commit to changing out old water heaters, refrigerators, TV's, especially CRT's (perhaps the first good reason to buy a flat screen television and computer monitor), washers and dryers, and dishwashers. Switch to a gas range if you are more environmentally conscience or gas is cheaper than electricity. Yes, natural gas burns clean, electricity is coal powered for the most part. And, as the commercials say, "there is no such thing as clean coal."

There is even more you can do without causing you extra work, save the setup. Put timers on lights and appliances for appropriate times of the day. There is no reason to have your computer on all night, set it to turn off automatically at 2am if you're a late owl.

Also, all the AC adaptors you have on power strips for every gadget imaginable use power when they are plugged in. Use an electric timer on these items so they don't waste power all night long.

Say yes to fans and no to air conditioning; it wasn't around 100 years ago, so people just used to get by.

And, DON'T LEAVE THE LIGHTS ON! Leaving just one 60 watt bulb on one day uses 1.44 kilowatt hours.

Utilities: Water. Are you that type of man that needs high water pressure in the shower come an arm and a leg? Well, what if there are high efficiency water heads?!?! There are. Switch the entire house out with low flow, but high pressure water heads, this will cut your water bill without a doubt.

New washers and dishwashers as mentioned before are also using less water. If you have a large property requiring watering, try re-landscaping your property including lava rocks and succulents, plants that do not require human watering.

Cliche, but true, turn the water off while brushing your teeth. Also it's much more efficient to fill the sink with hot water while shaving to clean your razor instead of letting the water run. This act actually wastes more water than brushing your teeth with the water on because it takes longer to shave.

Utilities: Natural gas savings come from 2 main places. Turn the heat level on your water heater (if gas powered)from the standard to a slightly lower setting. Then when you want hot water in the shower, you'll still get it, but without having to turn the cold nob on so much.

Also, don't overheat your house if you have central heat. Most people have programmable thermostats, if you do try turning it down to 68 or 69 degrees. Most people actually are calmer and more productive when the temperature is slightly below 72 degrees.

Utilities, Cable/Internet: These bills are big, more than a $100 monthly in many cases. Do you need the $10 a month DVR/TiVo service or the $12 a month Cinemax channel? Try finding one item on your cable or internet bill you can take off. Remember every $10 a month is $120 a year.

Utilities, Cell Phones: Cell phone bills are incredibly high, impossible to read, let alone make sense of, and yet we pay them anyway, even if begrudgingly. It's pretty embarrassing to have your friends know your line is out of service due to late payments.

Call your phone company, ask them if there are any lower priced plans out there to switch to. Maybe you don't need to spend $10 on unlimited texting when you would only spend $5 paying $0.20 a text. And please don't tell me you have a 1000 minute plan when you only use 600 minutes a month. Cell phone companies like to change plans around all the time with new marketing campaigns. When you talk to a representative of your cell phone company, they can't lie to you and have to tell you about all the plans. You should be able to at least hear suggestions from the representative about what you can do to lower your monthly bill.

If you still have an old PSTN copper phone line from the Ma Bell era dump it! One number works just as well as one phone. If you have business's or needs for more numbers, they can be forwarded to your phone or a different set of answering prompts. There is no need for even a digital phone (VOiP) if you manage your telephone presence correctly.

Credit Cards: Everyone has heard it yet very few seem to head the advice. Pay off your credit cards first, ideally every month! If you can't afford to pay off your credit cards monthly, you can't afford to charge new items on them. Interest rates can range from 0% to above 20%. If you are investing money at a lower rate of return you are losing money with investing instead of paying off your credit cards with the same money. If you have great credit, look for a 0% balance transfer or a cash back card right now.

Electronic Bills: Yes it saves millions of trees which should be a good enough reason to pay ALL your bills via electronic statements and payment methods. However, for those that still like paper in hand, you are not just holding Bambi's dead wooden Mother, your are also paying $44 cents per stamp in addition to your bills. It may not seem like much. But, paying to mail only five bills a month costs over $25 a year. Most people have many more than five bills monthly.

Car loans: Pay more than the minimum payment or if possible, pay cash. If you pay more than the minimum, you'll save money over the life of the loan. If you buy in cash, you don't have to worry about another bill to pay monthly.

Ink Toner: Go to Staples or Wal-Mart and price check the ink refill cost for your printer. Then look for the lowest priced ink on sale. Compare the difference and buy a new printer it'll be new! And, the printer will pay for itself within 1-2 years.

Plant a Garden: For real. How much money do you spend on produce in the spring, summer, and fall? I guarantee it's well over $100. If your not the gardening type, no worries. Take a handful of already grown mid-size plants and cut a little patch of lawn to grow them in. You can just plant lettuce. Or you can plant all the items you'd need for making a salad deluxe. All of this while being organic, eco-friendly, and cost saving. Not to mention, being outside and working a little isn't bad for anyone's waistline.

If you are someone that has taken all these suggestions and have already assimilated into this way of life, congratulations, you are saving bank and reducing your carbon footprint.

So, there they are B's guide to saving a penny or two. Actually, if you take this preach to heart, I guarantee you can find many ways in your house to save some serious money, to you know, buy shoes with.

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