Cut Costs At Home With These Easy Hacks:
How’s your family budget doing? Do you find yourself having to make the same amount of money stretch a little further, month by month and year by year, than it did before? How do you tighten your belts and keep costs under control? There are the classic ways of “cutting back” – eating out less, making that morning coffee at home, brown-bagging lunch for all – but there are other, even easier ways to trim your budget.
Ready to learn more? Then read on:
My Fave Easy Ways to Trim Your Budget Now:
1. Cut your energy bills
I actually wrote a whole post about cutting your energy bills recently. But for those of you who missed it, there are several ways you can do this:
- If you haven’t done so already, swap out those old incandescents (and next time they die, your CFL bulbs, too!) for super-efficient LEDs.
- Unplug things when not in use (phone chargers, printers, appliances in little-used rooms, etc) or put them on power strips that you can flip “off.”
- Get a programmable thermostat, if you don’t already have one. Then program your central air 1-2 degrees higher in the summer, and 1-2 degrees colder in the winter.
- See if your electric company has a summer energy-saver program; if so, sign up. (Ours cycles our central air off for short spurts at peak power times, and we also agree not to do laundry or dishes in the middle of the afternoon – peak times. In exchange, we get a rebate check at the end of the summer!)
- If this is an option in your area, shop around to get the best price on energy suppliers.
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2. Slash your phone and entertainment costs
Have you cut the cords yet – to your landline, and/or your cable or dish subscription? Dear Husband still likes to have a landline, but we ditched TV over a decade ago and haven’t looked back; our monthly streaming costs are a fraction what cable or dish costs. If you can’t live without your [fill-in-the-blank], see if there’s an alternate way to get it, whether it’s streaming, or a package that doesn’t include the 10 channels you actually watch PLUS 990 you never do.
We also have several tricks we use to keep our cell phone bills in check. And when all else fails, it’s worth negotiating here, too. (Honestly, our current internet plan is cheaper WITH the landline than without – another reason we still have a landline. But every 12 months our current promo rate ends, our monthly bills rise, I call our provider and ask for the latest promo, and our bill goes back down.)
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3. (Re)Negotiate as needed, and save with bundles
And not just on your electric bill or phone bills. Regardless of the service, a few minutes of negotiation can save you a bundle. Build this into your calendar once a year, schedule it just like any other appointment, and spend a morning calling around.
And don’t forget about discounts for bundling. Internet/phone/cable companies often promote bundles where you’ll save by using all three services from them. The same is true of bundling car insurance with your homeowner’s or rental plan. But even if you have bundles, it’s worth going over your coverage every so often to see if there are other ways you could trim costs (e.g., raising your deductible).
And finally, if there’s a bundle you want that the provider doesn’t advertise, it never hurts to ask. All the ISPs in our area brag about their great TV-phone-internet intro-rate bundles for $99/month – until I tell them we don’t watch TV. Magically, they always find us a rate of less than half that if we have a landline plus internet.
4. Consider sensible upgrades
Don’t forget about common-sense upgrades and inexpensive fixes that will help you cut costs. One of my favorites is seeing if your electric provider offers you a home-energy audit. Sometimes these are free; other times they cost a small fee ($25-$50), but you get that dollar amount back in free goodies at the end of the audit. (This was how we got our first LED bulbs about a decade ago, as well as insulation for our water pipes and aerators for our faucets.)
And if you need to replace something anyway, see if there is an energy-saving option. Broken light switch in a high-traffic room? Maybe you could replace it with a sensor or a timer. Leaky faucet or clogged showerhead? See if there’s an option that will reduce water usage without sacrificing quality. Kids always leaving the door open (letting out heat and/or AC)? Get an automatic door-closer.
And of course, if you need to replace an appliance, the new version is probably going to be more energy efficient than the old one anyway. But make sure the model you choose is as energy-efficient as possible, as well as reliable. A good price on an appliance needing constant repairs isn’t much of a deal in the long run. (We have an online Consumer Reports subscription just so we can do our research before making any big purchases.)
5. Time your home improvements and big purchases
Not only will Consumer Reports help you get the most bang for your buck, but their buying guides will also tell you the best time of year to make certain purchases, based on when things go on sale.
This is how we learned that one of the best times of the year to get things like appliances and lighting fixtures at significant discounts is over Memorial Day weekend. So whenever possible, rather than waiting for something like a refrigerator to die completely, we try to time replacing it for Memorial Day weekend. (Knowing ahead of time when it will go on sale, and planning our purchases accordingly, also helps us to save up and budget for this expense, rather than have a dead appliance mean an unexpected hit to our emergency savings.)
The same is true for the ceiling-fan light fixtures Dear Husband installed in all the bedrooms in our current home. We purchased them in successive years over Memorial Day at a steep discount. Likewise, if we know we’re going to need a new cell phone or computer/tablet, we try to wait until late summer, when old models go on clearance as everyone rolls out their new models in time for back-to-school.
On the other hand, if you’re in the market for something like a window air conditioner or pedestal fan at some point down the road, you’ll save lots if you can buy one on end-of-season clearance the year before.
The bottom line:
Let’s face it, owning and maintaining a home isn’t cheap; the same is true of raising a family. But there are plenty of ways to cut back on how much you have to spend. Saving money whenever you can can help you avoid too much stress in your day-to-day life, leaving you more money in your pocket and more calm at home.
What are your favorite tips for budget-trimming? Let us know in the comments!
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4 thoughts on “Easy Ways to Trim Your Budget Now”
These are some great ideas especially bundling and unplugging. Little steps can make big differences!
Absolutely! It is really amazing what kinds of discounts you can get when you bundle services together…
This is timely. We had really huge expenses these past weeks and we’re looking at trimming down our budget. Thank you for your tips regarding the energy bill. Ours just sent to the roof this summer.
Aiyiyi, I know what you mean. I love hot summer days when the kids are tired from playing outside all morning, and we can just hide in the relative cool of the basement watching movies all afternoon, instead of being upstairs (where we’re tempted to crank the AC a few degrees cooler…)