Are summer expenses and winter energy bills ruining your budget? Not any more!

By: on 2017-01-19
Ask Phil Bradford
Just think about a situation! You have been doing your budget quite nicely and are very satisfied with your performance. But, summer months arrived and everything went for a toss. Why? Because you splurged without keeping a track of your spending; or, it might be that you had to spend more on a vacation than what you had planned. Similarly, don’t let the chilled breeze and snowfall increase your energy bills during winter. Take a home tour, find out the loopholes that are fattening your utility bills, and fix them up. This way, you’ll be able to slash your utility bills easily and make your bank account happy.

7 Ways to avoid some of your sneaky summer expenses

1. Avoid roads with toll tax

If you're planning a road trip, then you may set your GPS to the destination address and follow the directions and keep on paying the toll taxes on the road. However, if you research a little before hitting the road, then you may find an alternate route where you don't have to pay the toll taxes. It may make your trip a little longer but you may save even after paying more for the extra mileage. However, calculate whether the fuel cost or the toll tax will be more, so that you can make the right decision.

2. Fill up your fuel tank beforehand

On your road trip, it is better to fill up your fuel tank before you reach a tourist town. The gas price is relatively more in big towns or tourist towns. So, before you reach the town, you can fill up your fuel tank from the gas stations on your way. The reason being the gas stations in the tourist cities usually charge a premium because they know that the tourists have not many options in the area; so, a tourist is bound to pay more per gallon every time they run out of gas.

3. Use frequent flyer miles to purchase tickets

If you have accumulated frequent flyer miles, then this is the time to use them in order to buy your vacation tickets. Usually, the flight tickets are relatively higher during the vacation time. But, it might not affect your holiday budget if you have sufficient frequent flyer miles. Therefore, if you have them, use them instead of keeping it for future use.

4. Carry your own personal items

Often you need to spend quite a lump sum amount if you need to purchase your personal items and/or everyday essentials in your vacation. They usually cost more when you have to buy them from a hotel or a resort where you're staying. So, stock up your essentials when you go on a vacation.

5. Check out the cost of a pet sitter

When you go out on a vacation and want to leave your pet with a pet sitter, then check out beforehand, how much they charge per day. A professional dog sitter usually charges about $50 per night (though it may vary from one place to another). So, check out the prices and look for a place where your pet will be safe. And, if you're really lucky, you can have a kind neighbor with whom you can swap pets during vacation. You look after his/her dog when he/she goes on a vacation and you leave your dog with him/her when you go on a vacation.

6. Return movie DVDs on time

There's perhaps very less number of people who don't enjoy watching a movie alone or with friends along with chilled beer and snacks, especially during summer. However, when you rent a movie, make sure you return it on time. It might seem to you that you need to give only $1.50 per night as a late fee if you don't return it on time. However, just calculate how much you'll spend unnecessarily if you build the habit of returning movies late. And, if you forget returning a movie, then you'll accumulate late fees without your knowledge.

7. Try to not use public computers on vacation

If you do not carry your laptop with you on your vacation and need to use the computer in the hotel business center, then beware. The computer might have spyware which can record your keystroke. Thus, the websites you're visiting, along with the usernames and passwords, will automatically get stored in the computer. So, try to avoid using a public computer. Even if you need to use one, make sure you log out from the websites, delete your search history and shut down the browser before you leave. Do not think twice to devote that time even if you're in a hurry.

10 Easy ways to reduce utility bills during winter months

1 Install attic insulation

Ditch your monthly electricity bill by installing attic insulation.

Use fiberglass insulation. It’s cheap and easy to install. You can also do it yourself.

Don’t worry if you can’t install it. Check out online DIY tutorials to guide you through the whole process.

2 Go for weather stripping

This is another simple and inexpensive way to keep away the cold air from entering your home.

Use weatherstrips made of metals because they’re low cost and long-lasting as compared to the sponge, felt and foam ones, which are not so durable.

3 Insulate switches and outlets

We leave the outlets and switches bare while insulating our home. Isn’t it? Well, you need to protect these outlets and switches to prevent hot air from escaping.

Check out your nearest hardware store for some cheap switch plate seals.

4 Adjust the temperature of your programmable thermostat

As per the experts, you can cut your energy bills by 10% if you adjust the temperature of your programmable thermostat correctly.

Lower the temperature of the thermostat in winters and save up to 2% on your energy bills.

5 Use water heater jackets

Is your water heater increasing your utility bill? If so, then insulate it and reduce heating costs.

According to USDE, insulating water heater reduces standby heat loss by 25% to 45% and saves you about 7% to 16% in heating costs.

6 Use cold water to wash clothes

When you are washing clothes in hot water, most of the energy used by your washer goes toward heating the water, causing a rise in your energy bills. In order to lower your utility bills, you must wash clothes in cold water.

Air-dry clothes can save up to 10% to 20% on your utility bills.

7 Purchase Energy Star appliances

Energy Star appliances like refrigerators, water heaters, washers, and furnaces consume less energy as compared to the non-rated ones. Thus, it helps to keep your utility bills low. However, these machines may cost more; but, it’ll help to save you money in the long run.

8 Fill up your dishwasher

Half-filled dishwasher will consume more energy when you turn it on.

Make sure your dishwasher is full before turning on. It’s more water and energy efficient when packed up. Even better, hand wash dishes in a sink full of water to save more energy.

9 Use low-flow shower head

Invest in a good low-flow shower head to reduce water consumption and energy usage. Running shower consumes energy. So, fewer gallons of hot water means less energy consumption and a low monthly water bill.

If you use low-flow shower heads, you can save up to $50 on heating costs per year.

10 Use insulated curtains to prevent heat loss

Insulated curtains are one of the cheapest ways to cut down your monthly energy bills during winter months. They prevent heat loss and keeps your room warm during winters. You won’t have to make a major lifestyle change to use these curtains. Just replace your regular curtains with the insulated ones and you’re good to go.

Implementing all the above ways won’t require a major lifestyle change. You just have to invest few dollars to implement these good, old, and easy ways to lower your utility bills during winters.

Do you know any other ways to reduce summer and winter expenses? If so, then do share your thoughts with us in the comment box below.

Last Updated on: Thu, 19 Jan 2017

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