Finances 101: How to save on utilities

Hello Readers!  Well, it’s time to talk about a stressor for a lot of us: our finances.  We constantly do what we can to cut back on our spending, and we turn to the internet to search for more tips on how to save money.  But we always get the same advice that we’ve tried in the past.  I get it.  I do it, too.  But, never fear, there are ways to save yourself a couple of bucks each month that you might not have thought of, and it all starts with your utilities.

I know that many of you have heard of some of these. You may have even employed these, but I hope to tell you why we follow most of these in our own home, although the ones we don’t follow are due to our current living situation (ie, apartment living).  Now, let me start by discussing the big one: the phones.

Let’s face it: the days of the landline have become a footnote in our history books.  It’s time to come to terms with the fact that the cell phone (and even the smartphone) is our new form of communication.  We even list it as our primary contact number on most forms.  So why do you still have your landline?  It may be cheap each month, but that cost adds up over time.  And, face it, the only calls you may be getting on that line are telemarketers and politicians.  Trust me, you don’t need a landline anymore.

And, while we are on the topic of phones, this may be a great time to look at your cell phone options out there.  Cell phone plans are expensive, but many providers are looking for ways to get new customers and/or keep the ones they have.  Check out your options or talk to your provider about lowering your monthly bill.  My husband is a manager for one of the carriers (I won’t say who because I’m not here to promote any certain company), and even we didn’t know we could get better rates with his company (even as regular retail customers) until he started working there.  So I encourage you to shop around and talk to your own provider about getting the best plan available for your needs.  Now, remember: not all plans are cheap and not all providers will work with you.  But you may find yourself with a better plan or better rate by just checking it out.

The next utility bill to cut back on: your cable bill.  Now, I know what some of you may be thinking: I have it all bundled and I’m saving money by bundling.  But allow me to let you in on a secret: there are no savings with bundles that are worth the money spent on something you don’t need.  Most of us have Netflix or Hulu subscriptions.  If not, most of us rarely watch television anyway.  I know that we often turn it on for background noise or to semi-tune in to the latest episode of the Big Bang Theory while we scroll through our social media feeds.  Face the facts: you’re probably paying a fortune for the movie packages that show nothing but crappy movies that came out five years ago that no one watched then.  Sure, they have the latest (and “greatest”) shows out there.  But, honestly, you can get most of them on Netflix or Hulu for less.  So, save yourself some money and ditch the upgrade package.  Drop down to the basic cable package-which features your local channels and, sometimes, a few premium ones-and then you can keep your bundle.

Now, if you really want to save money you can do what we did: drop your cable completely.  We rely on Netflix for our entertainment in our house, which costs ten dollars a month.  Ten dollars!  Our “bundle” for cable plus internet was $150 a month.  When we dropped our cable, our internet bill changed to $50 a month instead of the $30 it had been in our bundle.  Still, even AFTER our Netflix bill (which we were already paying for) we save $90 a month by dropping cable.  Do you know what we lost? Crappy commercials. We lost a few shows that haven’t made the jump to Netflix options, but most of those shows aren’t really anything I would want to watch anyway, although I really want to see Downton Abbey, but I’ll explain that in a second.  But, what’s really cool is that I DVR’ed most of my shows anyway so that I could fast-forward through the commercials.  So, I really didn’t lose all that much.

And a really cool feature of Netflix, HGTV and Food Network have recently made the jump to Netflix.  So, I get to watch Chopped, Good Eats, Flip or Flop, and Fixer Upper again!  And now, I’m paying a lot less money to watch them without worrying about commercials.  Talk about a bunch of pluses!  Now, there are drawbacks, such as Downton Abbey not being on Netflix anymore (still crossing my fingers that it’ll come back on there).  But, it is available through Amazon Prime, if I wanted to spend the $30/month on that.  However, I did recently discover all of the seasons available to rent (for free!) at our local library.  Score!  So, I’m waiting for this fall and winter when I have a little more time on my hands to pick up the series and watch it for free at home.

So, really think about whether or not you need cable anymore.  While most of us may still want to catch our local news, remember that you can still get them for free via antenna, which is part of the Federal Communications Commission.  They even make special ones for smart televisions now, so you can still get your local news at 5 for free.  With a Netflix subscription for $10 and your WiFi or internet, you can’t go wrong with cutting cable out completely.  Trust me, you aren’t missing anything by not keeping up with the Kardashians.

Our next talk is on the power bill.  This is one area that can cost you a little up front to see some huge savings!  If your power bill is high and you do everything you can to keep it down, it might be time to update some of your equipment.  By now, most of us have an Energy Star fridge, washer, and dryer installed.  But, some of the older models aren’t as energy efficient as they claim to be.  It might be time to replace those older models with newer ones.  Even the basic models of today are more energy efficient than some of those older ones.  You might also want to consider dimmer bulbs in your light fixtures.  I hesitate to jump on board with the energy bulbs that everyone raved about a few years back because of the latest research on the long-term health effects on them.  But, dimmer bulbs might prove useful.  Make sure you turn off lights and power down equipment when not in use.  If your kids have a difficult time remembering to turn off lights or turn off equipment when done, why not enforce a power jar in your household (much like a swearing jar would work)?  Trust me, after losing a few dollars of their allowance, they will start remembering those lights.

Also question your use of equipment.  Do you really need your laptop plugged in and on every day if you only use it sporadically or on the weekends?  I, personally, keep my laptop powered down and unplugged when not in use.  I even store it in my laptop bag instead of on any surface.  And it only takes a few minutes to set it up or power it on, which is time I typically spend scrolling through my social media feed.  So, it’s a win-win for me.  We also use a lot of power strips throughout the house, which can easily be powered down when we go out of town or if we no longer need them.  Lastly, re-evaluate your appliances.  Do you really need your stand mixer plugged in if you only use it once a month?  Even though I use my stand mixer once a week typically, I keep it unplugged because it isn’t an every day item for me.  I also unplugged my old alarm clock, too, because I’ve taken to using my phone as my alarm clock anyway.

Another huge area of savings within your utility bills is with your waste disposal.  This is one area we don’t use, but that’s because it’s included with our monthly rent bill for our apartment.  However, did you know that Waste Management has recently started a campaign for a cleaner environment by introducing a compact can?  It’s about half the size of a regular can, but it costs less each month to have it rather than a regular can.  If you recycle and cut back on your waste products (such as with reusable products rather than disposable and less processed foods in favor of those from scratch, composting for your patio garden, and generally less waste), even your trash bill can be lowered.  It’s definitely something to consider, and it has another plus of helping to keep your own location a little cleaner by creating less waste in a landfill.  If I could, I would be checking with my local waste management provider (be it with Waste Management or another company) for incentives to lower my bill.  It might even be as simple as biweekly or monthly pickup instead of weekly.

So, Readers, hopefully this has helped you find new ways of cutting back on your utility bills that you might have otherwise not thought of doing, or ways to look at your expenses that will help you save a few bucks.  But, tell me Readers, what ways do you cut back on your utilities that may be useful to us?

Until next time,

-BBM

 

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