As you enter the new year, being more financially savvy is likely top of mind. Maybe you went a little crazy with your holiday spending, or you just want to start 2024 off on a firmer financial footing. Whatever the reason, better budgeting is always a good idea.
While many New Year’s resolutions ultimately fail — many before the end of January — this one doesn’t have to. A good way to cut costs is by trimming your utility bills. Reducing your use of water, power, and even trash collection services can offer many opportunities to save money. It’s just a matter of understanding how.
1. Consider Solar
One energy efficiency tip you have probably already heard is to go solar. Every time you get your electric bill, especially in the hot summer months, you likely cringe. Electricity costs are soaring for people across the United States, and they’re unlikely to come down significantly anytime soon. While there are tips and tricks to reduce those bills, there’s one tactic that can nearly eliminate your electric bill altogether.
Shifting from the power grid to solar panels can save you lots of money and help you become more environmentally friendly. And getting started doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive. Some solar installation companies offer long-term leases that enable you to pay for solar panels with a reasonable monthly fee, not a high up-front cost. If you do buy, you may be eligible for subsidies from your state or tax credits from the federal government. Once installation is complete, you can start reaping substantial savings.
2. Read Through Your Bills
Another trick for saving money on your utility bills is to read them closely. It sounds silly, but you may be amazed. Many utility statements will list time-of-use rates, showing where you can cut costs by running appliances during off-peak hours. Some offer clues to where you can save without even changing your habits. Your cell phone bill could contain charges for services you don’t use, for example, or you might be paying for cable channels you never watch.
Sit down at the end of the month with all the utility bills you paid and take a good look at them. Do you need all those channels on your cable box? Do you actually use the $10 hotspot on your cell phone? There may also be additional fees on your power bill you could ask your provider about. It can’t hurt to call your providers and ask about lower rates and ways to save; you might be surprised at what you discover.
3. Reduce Your Trash Output
One area to save that people don’t think of involves trash collection. Quite often, you’ll move into a place, sign up for trash services, and pay the bill without ever thinking of it again. Though the cost may be relatively low, some municipalities allow you to make it even lower by getting a smaller trash can. Before you do so, you’ll have to plan what to do with all the trash you were filling the larger can up with.
To reduce your trash output, you can compost most food scraps in a compost pile or bin. This approach can save room in your trash can and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You can also buy your food and household items in bulk to cut down on packaging. You can increase your commitment to recycling, which many cities incentivize. Practices like these can reduce your trash output, which will help shrink your monthly bill.
4. Turn Off the Tap
Head to any foreign country where indoor plumbing is not the norm, and you will rethink your water usage. It is so easy in the United States to just let the tap, the shower, or the garden hose run endlessly. But once you watch someone climb a hill for buckets of water, you start to count those droplets when you get back home. Conserving water can lower your water bill quite a bit, and you’d be doing a good deed for the environment.
There are plenty of ways to cut down on water consumption in your household that won’t really affect your daily life. Turn the tap off while brushing your teeth and take showers instead of baths — a single bath equals up to seven 5-minute showers! And don’t forget to recycle indoor wastewater for watering plants and collect rainwater in large barrels for outdoor gardening. These small steps can reduce your water bill while helping the planet.
5. Optimize Your HVAC Use
No one is going to tell you not to run your furnace during the winter or the air conditioner during the summer. In extreme temperatures, these appliances can literally save lives. But you can be smarter about how you use them and potentially save yourself a ton of money. If you’re running your furnace or an air conditioner, you’ll want to trap the warm or cool air indoors. That means keeping doors, windows, and fireplace dampers closed, and stopping drafts around windows and doors with caulking or weather-stripping.
To further optimize your HVAC system’s performance, check your vents and air filters. In the summer, you may be tempted to close downstairs vents, thinking it will force cooler air to the warmer upper floors. In reality, this disrupts airflow throughout your home and makes your system work harder. To ensure energy-efficient operation, make sure vents are open and unobstructed by furniture and replace air filters at least every three months. Each of these small changes can have a big impact on the amount of power you use.
If you start with just these tips, you can start saving money on your utility bills in the very next month. Indeed, making those phone calls to your providers may save you money instantly. Most of the action items here don’t require much beyond a bit more thought. And isn’t a bit of thought worth saving hundreds, if not thousands of dollars each year? Of course it is!