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Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

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saving on utilities

As you look over your budget and where money is going, one category that feels very stuck in stone is Utilities.  We have to heat the house and take showers, so looking at the electricity bill and water bill can be frustrating.  There are things that we can do in every area to save money though, or in some cases to just make the budget more stable.

We are going to cover all of our utilities today: electricity and gas, water, cable, phone, internet, trash.

Electricity & Gas

Freezing yourself in the winter and boiling the family in the summer only saves so much money.  So rather than taking a budget approach that makes everyone miserable lets look at things you can do to decrease usage.

Become more energy efficient.  If you are looking at your door and you can see light all the way around the door coming in, this needs to be fixed.  The same with window jambs or any other opening that shouldn’t be there.  In most cases these are things you can easily fix your self.  Get two things: Weather Stripping and a can of Great Stuff.  The weather stripping goes around the door jamb to make a seal around the door when it is shut.  It has a removeable back that makes it like a giant sticky rope, you just press and seal.  The Great Stuff is spray foam that expands and fills holes and gaps that may be in a wall, around pipes coming in and other places.

One other thing that can help here is getting a programmable thermostat.  These start around $20 and will turn the air up or down when you aren’t normally home.  Many have a program for each day of the week so you can change settings for weekends and weekdays.  If you are home all the time at least have it set to turn the air up/down while you sleep.  You can also look at closing air vents in rooms you don’t use a lot and keeping those doors shut.  You can go big and put a piece of wood over the space or go little and just put a box on top of the vent.  Remember not to close more than 30% of your vents it will put too much strain on the main system.

For more tips, see if your electricity company does in home assessments.  Many offer these free of charge to come through and give you tips on things to fix.  You’ll be surprised how many of their tips are easy things you can do yourself.

Budget Billing.  This won’t save you anything but a panic attack when the electricity bill is double over the previous month.  Sign up for budget billing with your electric company and they will average all of your payments from the last year and give you one flat rate to pay each month.  If you end over paying this year (since it was based off last years numbers) then your last bill of the year will be reduced by that amount.  You could end up with a December bill of $12!  To have the set rate every month is very helpful as you plan your budget and a big stress reliever in the winter months.

Water

Seriously there isn’t much in this category to do, other than doing a quick check to make sure you have no leaks in plumbing or running toilets.  An easy way to check for leaks in the toilet is to grab an Easter egg dye kit and take a tablet out of it and put it in the tank.  See if after a few minutes the bowl water is still clear or if it’s not a nice Eastery color.

You can start to time showers… that won’t make people happy though.  One thing you can look at is your shower heads and make sure they are low-flow.  If they aren’t you can get a new shower head starting at $5 that will use probably half the water of your old one!  Make sure to also get some plumbing tape, and you can easily tackle this project yourself.  If you have older toilets that aren’t low-flush you can use the brick trick.  Add a brick to the tank to reduce the amount of water in the tank and thereby reduce water used per flush. If you don’t have a brick take a plastic jug and fill it with water and place in the tank.

Cable

Seriously… this isn’t needed and should have gone ages ago if money is tight.  My husband and I are going on 12 years of marriage this year and we’ve never had it.  Grab a Roku and watch a ton of things online (even your favorite shows).  If you can’t give it up at least make sure you are paying for any equipment rentals.  Many times you can find used receivers on Amazon, Craigslist and many other places.

Phone

It’s time to drop the home phone.  I can’t think of anyone I know that has one anymore other than my Dad and honestly I can’t remember the last time I heard his ring.

As for saving on cell phones, check out the great deals you can get with month to month pay as you go type phones.  Many stores offer B1G1 deals on reloading cards, plus you are only paying for what you use.  With traditional plans, at least throw family members on your plan with you.  It costs $75 on average to have your own plan or $30 to add a line.  So get 3-4 family members together and split the plan evenly.

Internet

As a blogger, internet is something I need, but for many households this really is just like cable.  You are just as addicted to your Facebook as he is to ESPN.  Try for a week to not use the internet at home and only use free WiFi when you are out.  If you can do it and not have convulsions, then cut it.  As the budget has more room then you can add it back in.

To save without cutting, at least make sure you are on the lowest speed possible.  We all grew up with dial-up so believe me the lowest speed is thousands of times faster than what you used to have… Many homes won’t even notice a difference in speed, they just up-sell you without really giving you a different product.

Trash

This is one I added at the last minute as I remembered that in past areas we have lived trash was an additional fee and not part of our taxes (where we live now it is part of your taxes and you have to pay).  If trash pick up is a service you pay for on your own, please consider dropping this too.  For years we ran twice a week by the “dump” (really a trash location in our county).  It just takes you working it into your routine, but this saved us over $200 a year to just take it ourselves.

Do you have any tips for lowering utility costs?

Tomorrow, many of you asked for it so we are going to cover childcare (not officially in most online budget guides).

    • Candi

      To save more on water, take a shower and while you are in the shower, turn off the water while you soap up. This has saved us at least $10 a month if not more.

    • Donna

      unplug everything not needed, the toaster,cell phone chargers, TV, everything. Our last house I even unplugged the washer and dryer, this really will save on your electric bill

    • pdnr

      We’re a family that will have cable – other options just won’t work for us but we got a pretty good deal – combined cable (including several premium channels), internet and unlimited phone – total price for all including taxes is just over $125. We limited our cell phone to a pre-pay flip phone that we only use when absolutely necessary – costs us $2.50 a month – and use our landline for free long distance.

    • pdnr

      One more suggestion – by composting what we can of trash, putting a bag in the bottom of freezer for meat scraps that can’t be composted and separating items for recycling, we limit our trash runs to the dump to once every couple of weeks. Wouln’t work for anyone with diapers though.

    • Bee

      Dropping the land line only works if you have a cell phone. Since my cell phone plan is minute to minute, it doesn’t make sense to drop it. We use an OOMA. You pay a one-time fee (maybe $150-200) to buy the unit and then just the taxes ($4.50 a month). Pays for itself in less than a year and then it’s cheap. Does require high-speed internet which is a non-negotiable in our household anyway.

      • Dawn Holder

        I love my OOMA. I tried the Magic Jack and it was horrible. HIGHLY recommend the OOMA.

      • guest

        Another consideration – safety. Dropping a land line is not necessarily a smart thing to do. Some areas/cities do NOT have the technology to locate you when you call 911 from your cell phone and the other issue is that your cellphone connects to the closest tower it can grab. This may not be your local police dept and may result in 1-2 phone transfers to get your closest emergency response dept (fire/police/ambulance). In some emergencies, those minutes could cost someone their life! Jenny I was a little concerned when you advised people to “drop the land line”. That may not be too smart. My husband works in law enforcement and previously worked in dispatch and you have no idea how many calls they get that people’s lives are put at risk on a daily basis because the cell phone isnt grabbing the correct/closest 911/police dept. Its frightening. We personally keep a land line and it saved my husband’s life. He had a very unexpected life threatening emergency in our house and I had my cell phone on my hip. I couldn’t get a signal at that moment, which is rare at my house, But I was smart enough to try it and at at the same time I ran to our land line. A delay of one minute and he would have suffocated on his own blood! Please think twice before you drop a land line. We don’t have high risk health issues here and we still needed it. If you have an aging parent or a family member with medical issues, paying for a land line is better than losing a life. And even those voice over IP (VOIP) things like Magic Jack have connection issues with 911.

        • Brooke

          We have never had a landline and the 911 thing concerned me a bit too; however a few years we had a wireless alarm system installed so there is no need for a landline. There are medical, fire and police panic buttons. Those buttons go directly to 911. Costs a little more than a home phone would if you are strictly concerned about 911, but I love knowing the alarm system is on my children’s windows.

          • Sally

            Our home is wired for a land line, but we do not have service. However, we do have a dial tone and were told that we still can make an emergency 911 call (thankfully, I haven’t had to test it yet). It is something to look into if you want to switch to cell-only.

    • Michelle L

      Any suggestion on company in Birmingham area ?
      1. cheapest internet connection?
      2. cell phone ?
      3. cable company ??

      do we really can cancell the trash company service and dump my once a week trash (1 small bag) at local big dumpster ?I didn’t know that …??

      • Bee

        Normally, you can only cancel your trash service if you live in a rural area. If you are in the incorporated section of Birmingham, I doubt you could cancel it. Trash is a tax that you must pay no matter what.

      • MeMe

        Cellular – MetroPCS, Boost, Virgin. They are pre-pay but the savings and free phone (if needed) .. you can’t beat.

      • Wendy

        We stopped our trash pick-up over 2 yrs ago. Saved $360/yr! We take ours to a family members house. Also, since we recycle we really only use one trash bag/wk since most of the stuff is recyclable or placed in our compost.

    • Brooke

      Many electric companies have an on call program, where they will install a device on your A/C, water heater, or pool pump. Then during peak hours they are allowed to shut power off for a few hours. Likely won’t be exercised much and will save you a few bucks each month Generally free to join and you can cancel at anytime if you decide it does work for you. You may want to spend $20 to insulate your hot water heater if you do the hot water heater option.

      • MeMe

        I tried the device on my A/C. Only problem … when it the temp reached over 80/85 degrees, I couldn’t cool my house down. For about three hours (at the hottest time of the day), we had to sweat it out. For the discomfort, we ditched it.

        • Brooke

          Our power company has a 15 min off, 15 min on for up to 6 hours, and then an extended off for 3 hours option. Don’t know if I could do the extended off option, but I guess that would just be time to adjust the schedule and run some errands

      • curlyq45

        We’ve had these devices on our A/C unit and water heater for the last couple years. They say they only use them during a 3 hour peak on summer days, but we haven’t ever noticed-and it’s hot in Georgia in the summer. (Our house is about 2,100 sq. ft.) We get a $25 credit on our bill every September just for having them. Worth it for us.

    • Stephanie Lauren Dyar

      Anyone have more details on the ROKU? I have netflix right now with no cable but it seems to me this might have more things to watch. Anyone have one or any insights? Thanks

      • rebekah42

        I love my ROKU! You can get the older model for around $40. They have “channels” you can download. Some are paid subscriptions like Netflix. But they have many free channels like PBS, A&E, NBC, CBS, etc. The networks put many of their shows on these channels so you can stream them for free once you have the box. It has expanded my options for tv viewing. I would definitely recommend it for anyone trying to cut cable.

    • Want2joinin

      To save water for our family, I have added a 2 liter bottle of water to the back of the toilet. Just place the bottle in the water tank, that is an easy 2 liters saved! We also hand wash dishes, where we save water. One sink for hot soapy water and one sink of cold rinse water. The dishes get a double dunk and then are set up to dry. Saves a ton of water, in addition to low flow shower heads, I have saved our family 20-30/month on our water bill!

    • Jennifer

      Our dryer broke for a bit this summer and it took my husband 2 weeks to get the part to fix it. I had two of those wooden collapsible drying racks so I made the most of it. By the time I got the electric bill there was a noticeable difference. It had dropped like 30 bucks from the previous bill. The only thing I had done differently was air drying the clothes for those weeks. Now I dry all my towels and dish cloths on the racks. I also air dry a load or two of clothes every week. Like the other commenter said, unplug any chargers and appliances when not in use. TV’s are a big zapper. Just put the tv on a power strip and shut the button off when you are done. All of the things that are plugged in still pull power even when not in use. We have a programmable regulator on the hot water heater that shuts it off during the day. That saved us about 20 a month. No sense in heating water when no one is home and I have noticed that the tank itself keeps the water in it hot. We have a two story 2200 sq ft house and our average bill is 150.00. Also some areas have peak times when you pay more per kilowatt. You can check with your power company. Mine goes up after 10 a.m. I try not to wash or run the dishwasher during those times. They also charge more on major holidays.

      • MagzieM

        Great tips, but definitely check with your power company on the rate changes. My area is very different than yours, so it turns out I would end up paying MORE for electricity if I followed your power company’s schedule :)

      • pdnr

        In warm weather, I hang clothes on the dry racks outside. One bonus, it helps bleach those dingy white t-shirts to a nice bright white! In winter, I hang them on racks in a spare bedroom.

      • Susie

        Thanks for the reminder on the dryer. This spring it will be clothesline drying for us!

    • MaryB10114

      If possible hand out your clothes to day. I have even went far as to hang a load of laundry on hangers and place them on the shower curtain rods in the bathroom when it was raining outside. If the heat is already on, why not use it to dry a load. Just make sure to turn the fan on to pull out any extra moisture in the air.

      • MaryB10114

        wow, I must be more asleep than I thought,…”if possible hang out your clothes to dry.” is what I meant to say.

    • Dee Wolters

      We live in a rural area, so are very limited on options. For tv, our only option is Dish network. We have the basic package- no premium channels, but it was over $60/month. My husband was ready to turn it off and go with just Netflix, so he called dish. He mentioned that he could just pay $20 for Netflix. Dish said they would reduce our bill to $20. I was quite surprised, and our first bill just came, it was really $20. Never hurts to ask.
      We keep our electric bill down by heating our house with wood. We have a wood stove and trees on our property, so we cut down the dead trees and burn the wood. Our house is totally electric, so this saves us $$$ each winter. It is a little work, but not to much once we get into the routine. Last week when it was less than 10 degrees, our house was warm and toasty.

      • sujo

        We are rural too. We are not served by cable companies, so DISH has always been our best option. My cell phone does not get service, so phone lines are a must. We also get our internet through our phone company, which has always been our cheapest option. ROKU’S are useless without internet, as are HULU and Netflix. And no, we would not move even if we could.
        You really have to consider where you live and what’s available. Personally, I could live without satellite, but my husband would be having those convulsions, even though we have the basic package.

    • Susie

      Two other things on electricity and gas.
      1) put your water heater on a timer so your not using energy to constantly heat the tank of water while you sleep, or while you’re away at work.
      2) pre pay for your winters gas. We use propane which always goes up in the winter time when you need it for heating. The gas companies allow you to “lock in” your price for winter consumption in the summer time. “Lock in” means you buy x number ( based on last winters consumption ) of gallons at summers prices, lets say $1.59 a gallon, and you will have those x number of gallons delivered for free during the winter, even if gas has gone up to $ 2.59 a gallon at the time of delivery you still only paid $1.59 for it. Some winters the savings are substantial.

    • Tammie

      Brick in the tank—I think it needs to be in a plastic bag, as you don’t want any of the brick particles to come loose and clog the toilet.

    • Tennesseestacy

      If your water heater is in an unheated/underheated area like the garage, add a water heater blanket.

    • Tammy

      I love my TiVo! I have an antenea and it works wonderful. If you get a TiVo – get the best one you can afford. I have 4 channels/ 300 digital hours. I also replaced all my lights with the LED lights. The ones in the ceiling were expensive but we save over $20 month. If you have a small room to heat go online and lookup tealight heaters. I found that two of them heat a 15 x 15 room pretty well (for pennies) when the temp gets into the 30’s. I have not used any other heat source this winter (I do live in Orlando, but it has been pretty cold lately) note – I would not use the candles with small children or pets that can reach it.

      • pondering

        brilliant!

    • Sandy

      It takes 1 1/2 gallons of cold water to turn hot for showers in the opposite side of our home. I place empty milk jugs in the showers to save all that cold water for watering houseplants, water for the dog bowl, patio plants, the hen house, bushes close to the house (even in winter). Makes me crazy to see it run down the drain!

    • Lisa Johnson

      We live in a rural area and it’s not cost effective to go to the dump, So for 3 years now we split the trash bill with a neighbor, it works out to $7.00 a month a lot less than it would cost in gas to go to the dump.

    • pondering

      everyone says ditch the home phone, but you can keep home number and use voipo for 8/month unlimited and use a prepaid cell phone thru att for less than 10/month emergencies…. how else are u gonna have that level of connection for less than that???

    • Justme

      Where I live kilowatt hours are cheaper after 10 P.M. That’s when I run the dishwasher WITHOUT the dryer and wash a few loads of laundry. I hang laundry on an outdoor clothes line as weather permits, and always unplug appliances including the cable boxes which use a lot of electricty. Comcast bundle (basic cable, phone, and internet) is $182 per month and so I just tested an old rabbit ear antenna and picked up 28 local channels for free. I am planning to purchase a ROKU very soon. And, Basic Talk phone service @ $9.99 per month. I also read online that you can mist windows with water and stick bubble wrap, cut to size, on the panes to insulate the glass without blocking out the natural light. Anyone try that?

    • Kris

      Everyone is saying unplug tv and such. we have a power cord that turns off the power to everything unless the main “appliance” is on. This is perfect for tv with dvd and such.

    • Cool.. these are great tips on how to save money.