Practical Ways to Save on Utility Costs

Aug 08

Practical Ways to Save on Utility Costs

One of the tenets of personal finance is to bring in more money than you send out via bills and other expenses. This allows you to save money for rainy days, retirement, etc. Unfortunately, for most of us, managing our money is not nearly that simple. For most of us, we have to scour our budgets looking for ways to scrimp and save so that we don’t go into debt trying to pay for our basic expenses.

Most of the time, when we’re looking for ways to scrimp and save, we look at what we call “discretionary” spending: our entertainment budgets, clothing budgets, personal care, even how much we’re spending on food. We tend to think of expenses like our utility bills as “fixed.” But what if they don’t have to be?

The truth is that there are lots of ways to reduce how much you spend on utility costs. You probably know some of the basics: turn off the lights, adjust the thermostat, take shorter showers, etc. Here are some less conventional ways to save across the board.

lamp bulb tulips

Go to the Source

If you live in a deregulated energy industry (like Texas or Pennsylvania), shop around to make sure that you are paying the lowest possible rate. Even if your energy market is still regulated, it’s helpful to go through your bills and make sure that every charge is legitimate. Utility companies often charge more than they should in fees, taxes, etc. Go through the bill line by line and challenge anything that seems strange. You can do this with every utility.

Reduce Your Consumption

This is the first thing most people do when they want to reduce their utility bills. They take military style showers, rearrange furniture so that they can take better advantage of natural light, spend more time outside, etc. There are lots of creative ways to reduce your consumption without cramping your lifestyle.

For example, to reduce your water consumption, why not harvest rainwater? Attaching a rain barrel to your gutter system isn’t difficult, you can do it yourself in an afternoon. You can also harvest gray water left over from your shorter showers and when you do your dishes (provided you use an eco-friendly soap). There are lots of ways to use gray water, which helps you reduce your water consumption.

Set up a compost pile and check rates for your local dump (and gas costs getting to and from). Is it cheaper to simply take your trash to the dump a couple of times a month than it is to have the city come and pick it up curbside? If it is, cancel your curbside service.

pic

Bundle Your Services

This isn’t something that you can typically do with traditional utilities like gas, water or power. You can, however, do this with your entertainment subscriptions. For example, you can switch and save with Direct TV bundles for movies, sports, etc. Bundles give you tons of entertainment options and reduce your dependence on other subscription services–especially if you opt in for the company’s DVR system.

Take some time to research your streaming service offerings. Do you really need all of those subscriptions, especially since most of them overlap, content-wise? Of course not! Choose the one or two that you actually use and go with those.

What to do With Your Savings

Now that you’ve managed to drastically reduce your utility spending, what should you do with all of that extra savings? Before you simply allocate it across your other bills, why not consider setting up a savings account? Put half away into your emergency fund and retirement accounts and put the other half into a “Big Fun” account.

Your “Big Fun” account can help cover the costs of vacations, concerts, and other events that might otherwise seem out of reach, financially. You’ll get to have fun and you won’t run the risk of totally blowing your budget when you decide that you need a reward for living so frugally for so long. Knowing that you can have the occasional “big fun” night reduces your urge to spend recklessly when extreme frugality gets tiring–which it will.

The point is this: there are ways to save across the board when it comes to your budget. You don’t have to live like a total pauper all the time and, in fact, sometimes the non-conventional things you do to save money are what end up saving you more than all of those techniques that force you to go without. Use some of the tips we’ve talked about here to help creatively cut your utility costs so that you can have fun once in a while!