Really! Who hasn’t heard maxims from their grandparents about how to save money such as “Shut that water off. You’re just flushing water down the drain.” or “The toilet’s running again!”
This is because just like back then, today the same thing is true: Everything we use costs money. So reducing our waste means saving more money!
This is why I’m going to share with you my 21 tips for how to save on utilities. In particular, we’re going to focus on three important areas: Water, garbage, and the phone.
1- Use less hot water whenever possible.
When it comes to saving money on your utilities, one of the first places you can look to is your hot water consumption.
Most people use it way to often for everything under the sun. Honestly, unless you’re trying to kill germs, cold water will work just fine for whatever you’re about to do. The next time you reach for the faucet, start with the cold water first before mixing in the hot. If you can avoid using it altogether, than do so.
2- Lower your water heater temperature.
Not only is energy wasted when we use too much hot water, it also gets wasted when we make our water too hot unnecessarily. This occurs when the hot water heater is set too high.
Have you ever checked yours? If you haven’t, go into the basement (or wherever yours is kept) and check to see what temperature your heater is at.
Most experts recommend setting your hot water heater to the ideal temperature of +120°F. However, if you can go lower, then go for it. It will mean less money spent for you!
3- Wash your clothes in cold water.
Some people like to think that using warm water is better for washing your clothes. But honestly: Washing your clothes in cold water gets them just as clean. It’s true; this according to the website Real Simple in an interview with a Colorado-based clothing-care expert. So save yourself the unnecessary expense of using up all your hot water.
4- Keep your showers shorter.
Do you like long showers? The hot water can feel good against your skin. But do this too often and you’ll be pretty upset with your utility bills later on.
Therefore, keep your showers to a minimum. The Water Conservation News & Tips recommends keeping it to under 5 minutes. But again if you can go shorter, then do it and save those dollars!
5- Consider switching to a geothermal water system.
If you feel very passionately about how much hot water your family needs and you can foresee a lot of money going to waste, then perhaps its time for you to consider upgrading. That could mean going with a geothermal system instead. After the initial up-front costs, it can save you 20-50% of what your conventional heating system costs to run.
Bonus tip: If you’ve got an irrigation (sprinkler) system, switch to a separate water meter. This way you’ll pay less per gallon of water used. This works great for not only your sprinklers, but also for filling the pool if you have one.
6- Insulate your hot water lines so they lose less heat.
Another cheap and easy way to save on your utility bills is to simply put foam insulation around your hot water pipes.
In my old basement, it was unfinished and the pipes were exposed. This made it very easy to get the foam around them. All it cost was just a few bucks. But it saves X per year.
7- Actually use your dishwasher.
Okay, I know this one might seem contradictory, but its actually more efficient to use your dishwasher than it is for you to clean them by hand. This is because usually when most people go to wash their dishes, they leave the hot water on and use a TON more than the dishwasher will be programmed to use. Plus, how great it is to not have to do all the dishes yourself? Just let the machine do all the work!
8- Pre-wash your dishes in cold water.
Okay, so you’re on board for using the dishwasher. But you still have to give those dishes a good pre-rinse before they go in there. When that happens, be sure to use cold water to do it. The crud and old food will slide off just the same; especially when you use a little bit of good-ole fashioned elbow grease to wipe it off.
9- Or don’t pre-rinse at all.
If your dishwasher is little more modern, then there may be a chance that you don’t need to pre-rinse the dishes at all. That would be great because it would save you on the water and trouble altogether.
10- Replace your showers with a flow-efficient head.
How old are the shower heads in your house? If they haven’t been replaced in some time, then you may want to consider getting a more modern one that uses less water. You can save up to 2.5 gallons per minute!
11- Fix a leaky faucet.
Leaky faucets are the worst. Not only do they drip and drip, getting everything underneath them wet. But those small drips can add up to more than 1 trillion gallons of water annually nationwide according to the EPA. That’s no good for your utility bill!
So don’t delay. Take a look at that pipe and see what you can do to fix it. Usually a little bit of plummer’s putty, caulk or tape and fix the problem easily. Even if you need to hire an independent contractor to fix the problem, it will cost less than the problems it will create in the long run.
12- Fix a running toilet.
Just like the leaky faucet, if you hear a toilet running, that’s gallons of waste per day. So don’t procrastinate! Take action soon and fix that leaky toilet. Head over to the big-box store and find the replacement part you need. A quick YouTube how-to video and 30 minutes later, you’ll be as good as new! I’ve replaced the leaky valves in my toilets dozens of times for less than $15 in parts each time. Easy as pie!
13- Replace your toilet valves with energy efficient ones.
If you are working on your toilet, take the opportunity to replace your valves with parts that will be more energy efficient. Though they may cost a little more up front, the years of savings will eventually pay-off.
14- Compact your garbage.
If you pay for your own garbage pick-up, then you know that it can get pretty expensive. This is especially true if you have to pay by the bag. That’s how my garbage service works. 6 bags is the minimum price, 10 bags costs a lot more.
How do we keep to the cheapest plan available? Simple – by breaking down our garbage and squashing as much into every bag as possible.
True story – our new house came with a garbage compactor machine. (I guess the previous owners saw the value in having as few garbage bags as possible too!) You wouldn’t believe the number of things we can put into this thing and watch them get squished. It’s pretty cool!
15- Always break-down large packages.
Along the same lines with garbage pickup and keeping down your costs, here’s another good one. If you’ve got big boxes, break them down! It will make them “appear” smaller.
Again: Our garbage service will charge you for over-sized items and “special” pickups. By breaking down the packaging into flat, small-sized packages, you’ll be able to skip the extra fee and keep your garbage in the realm of the normal service.
We use this trick all the time after big shipments. One that comes to mind is when we bought a big furniture package for our outdoor patio. There were seven huge boxes, and they nearly filled half the garage. So after a little work, we were able to break them down to a nicely packaged stack of cardboard and one garbage bag of styrofoam. Success!
16- Let the public take it away!
Again: If you don’t want to pay to have something hauled away and you CAN’T break it down, then do what I do. Put the thing you no longer want to the side the road and let someone else take it away!
Trust me – someone will want it. In most communities, there are tons of people who make a whole day out of being garbage pickers. (In fact, Wired Magazine once an article about a guy who makes six-figures doing this.) Usually they are after scrap metal or things they can re-sell. But sometimes they also take the most random stuff!
We had an old armchair that our dog had destroyed and rather than pay for a special garbage pickup, we put it to the side the road. Sure enough, by the morning, it was gone! So long old chair!
Do you tend to throw away a lot of organic waste like old groceries and food? Do you have a garden or woods? If so, then you might want to consider composting your waste instead. Not only will this reduce the number of garbage bags you throw away ( … which then translates into more money saved …), but its also better for the environment. Plus if you garden, this is basically free fertilizer for your plants.
Here’s an article on how you can get started with composting.
18- Drive your own garbage.
Do you own a truck? If you do and don’t mind one stinky drive per week to the local landfill, then drive your garbage to the landfill yourself! A lot of landfills will charge you little to nothing if you opt to bring your own garbage to the site. This way you’ll save a TON of money on this service. And if you’re using our compacting recommendations from earlier, then the number of bags should be pretty minimal.
19- Forget old-school telephone service.
Do you still have a regular land-line telephone? I’m talking about one that actually plugs into the telephone jack in your wall.
If you do, please stop! Consider going with a phone plan that works over the Internet instead. The prices are way, way cheaper! 10 years ago, we used to spend about $80 per month with Verizon for a private phone line. I learned about Vonage, and it was a game changer – $30 per month!
20- Bundle your phone service with your other ones.
Do you want to know how to pay even less for your phone? Try bundling it in with Cable and Internet. Usually the price to have all three services is less than getting just the two.
Sounds crazy right? True story. I once called Charter to downgrade our plan from Cable + Internet + Phone to just Cable + Internet. They told me my phone bill would actually go up by $8 per month if we did that! Yes, Charter was basically paying us $8 to keep our phones working!
That might seem insane. But remember – the service providers need to build their numbers. The more services they can claim they have, the better it looks for them.
21- Drop the landline altogether.
If its not cheaper to keep your phone and you don’t actually use it that often, then consider dropping it altogether and just using your cell phones instead. Though it might seem weird at first, I’m sure you’ll find that you probably use your cell phone 100 times more than your home phone anyways. Plus you’ll get over it pretty quickly once you’re not having to pay that bill any longer!
Bonus Tips: Reducing your home energy usage.
If you’re wondering: What about my electricity usage; isn’t that a utility too? Yes it is! And we’ve got a whole article full of tips dedicated for helping you save money there as well. Click here to check it out, and enjoy!
Featured image courtesy of Flickr