There are many changes we can make in our daily lives to help reduce energy costs. From carpooling to making sure that our homes are energy efficient. But making simple changes in our daily spending can also help to provide a cushion for those months when the electric bill is through the roof!
How to reduce energy costs. It all starts with a budget!
As with anything, you need to have a grasp on the basics before you graduate to advanced options. Creating a budget and understanding the basic aspects of money will help you to plan for a bright financial future.
Say the word "budget", and watch those around you cringe. In our free-spending, easy-credit culture, "budget" has become something of a bad word. We tend to dwell on the limitations that living within a budget requires rather than on the many benefits that living within our means affords us. This is unfortunate because without a budget it's almost impossible to manage household finances effectively.
The first step that should be taken to make higher energy prices more affordable is to construct a budget and track your day-to-day spending. Do this by bringing a pad and pen with you and writing down all of your purchases so you can go back later and decide which items you can cut back on. We're not suggesting that you give up all of your wants, hobbies, and fun stuff. Start by eliminating useless spending. Turn off the lights when you're not using them. Shut down your computer instead of letting it run a screensaver. Cancel cable and satellite channels you don't watch.
Bring a thermos of coffee to work instead of stopping for the Triple Deluxe Chocolate Caramel Iced Coffee with the shot of espresso. If you think gas is expensive at $3.50 per gallon, what about $2.25 for 16 ounces of flavored water and sugar? Quite the rip-off, eh? And don"t forget about the trips to the mall because you "need just one thing" and end up walking out with armfuls of stuff you don"t need and probably don"t have closet space for.
I'm sure you get the point. If you need more money for necessities, you need to spend less money on non-essentials. It's up to you which items you want to cut back on, but cutting back on your wants is unavoidable if the costs of your necessities increase. There"s no such thing as a free lunch.
Click here to download our "Learn Now or Pay Later" Financial Wellness Guide to learn more about budgeting and other financial issues.
Ease your pain at the pump
- Car pool with co-workers who live nearby.
- Use public transportation where available.
- Walk or ride a bike when you have short errands.
- Drive the speed limit. The faster you drive, the faster you drain your gas tank.
- Keep your car tuned.
- Keep your tires properly inflated.
- Lighten you car's load. Empty the trunk and passenger compartments of anything that you don't need in the car. Extra weight makes the engine work harder, which makes it burn gas faster.
- Don't transport items on the roof rack. This creates extra drag (air resistance), which makes your engine work harder and use more gas.
- Avoid leaving the engine running while parked.
- Use cruise control whenever its safe to do so. When you move at a steady rate of speed, your engine burns gas more efficiently.
- Change the oil and air filter according to your car manufacturer's schedule.
The general consensus among economists and other experts is that gas prices will remain elevated for some time. In fact, it is not clear whether the prices will keep rising or not. Make some small sacrifices now. It will be much easier than digging out of a pile of credit card debt later.
Household energy costs: Do you feel a draft?
- Don't use your fireplace. The fire actually draws air from your home and vents it right out of the chimney, right along with the heat.
- Cover windows with plastic sheeting. You can find it at any hardware store and it is inexpensive. Covering drafty windows will keep heat in your home where it belongs.
- Install weather stripping on doors and windows.
- Block the spaces between your doors and floors, especially for doors that lead outside.
- Keep your thermostat set between 60 and 65 degrees. Turn it off before you leave for work. Even better, install a programmable thermostat that will shut off in the morning before you leave and at night before you go to bed.
- Ask your oil or gas companies if they have budget plans, which will allow you to distribute your utility costs evenly over twelve months.
Save money while staying cool
When the warm summer months roll around, staying as cool as possible is at the top of everyone's mind. Unfortunately, keeping cool when temperatures are rising outside is not exactly cheap. Instead of suffering in the sweltering heat, there are some simple tricks you can use to keep your cooling costs down and your comfort level up. We can't guarantee your costs to cool down will be completely eliminated, but you will certainly not be sweating when the cooling bill comes in the mail!
- Clean out air conditioner filters monthly when it's being used. If they are dirty, they won't be able to cool your air as efficiently.
- Seal all cracks in your home, especially near windows and doors. Less cool air will be able to escape, and the hot air will stay outside of your home!
- Block out the hot rays from the sun by keeping your blinds closed as much as you can. This will keep your AC from having to work too hard to cool your house back down.
- If the thought of keeping your blinds closed on a bright sunny day makes you cringe, try installing solar screens on your windows to absorb the heat, or adding a window film that reflects the heat away from your home.
- Use a clothesline for drying your clothes instead of the dryer. Less heat being produced inside your home will prevent it from overheating.
- By changing up your landscaping around the home, and adding leafy greens in front of your windows or shading your AC unit, you'll be able to stop the sun from heating up your home.