Saving money and reducing overall household spending is a top priority of American families.
Nashville mom of four Barbara Lee does everything she can to shave down expenses in her family’s budget. “I’m a coupon nazi, I consolidate errand runs, participate in carpools and have converted the house to be as eco-friendly and cost-efficient as possible,” she says.
Lee is like many parents today, working to be a savvy consumer in a daunting economy. Many experts agree that maintaining a clear perspective of the “small picture” as well as major lifestyle changes can help families save more money.
Consumer Advocate Barbara Klepski says families trying to save, or struggling to pay rising utility costs, are paying more – and often too much – for the same goods and services they’ve been purchasing for several years. “We know about checking the seals on windows and doors, or the benefits of installing low-flow faucets, but too many consumers are still spending more than they have to every year,” explains Klepski.
Klepski says many households take advantage of the obvious ways to cut costs but don’t realize that a proactive attitude can help save more money every year. “Adding one or two tips can save $20 a month. Being extremely cost conscious can save the average family between $500 and $1,500 per year,” she adds.
Whether you’re looking to feather your retirement nest egg, saving to take your family on vacation or just shopping for options to cut costs, knowing where to find a few leaks in your budget can be rewarding for your entire family. “Parents can teach financial responsibility by encouraging their child’s participation in small acts of conserving utilities or helping be cost conscientious,” adds Certified Financial Planner Eric Bracken.
“Conservation is the number one way to save money on your electric bill,” says Nashville Electric Service Spokesperson Laurie Parker, adding that customers should pay attention to their bills in case there is any discrepancy on their meter readings. “Meters have to be read accurately, but if an error occurs – like a number being inverted – customers should call so the meter reader can come back out,” Parker adds.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) promotes a do-it-yourself home energy audit that you can do online or through a mail-in form. The process takes about 20 minutes online, and every household that participates receives a free conservation kit that includes compact fluorescent bulbs, outlet and light switch gaskets, faucet aerators and more. Participants also receive an audit report to help them learn where they may be wasting energy, and thus, money. Participate by logging on to energyright.com/savingenergy/evaluation.htm.
Pay Now, Save Later
Paying your monthly credit card bills, car loan or installment loan or mortgage sooner can save money. Because finance charges and interest are based on daily balances, lowering your balance weekly or bi-monthly instead of once a month can result in lower interest charges. “If you can’t pay the entire bill immediately, pay half or a portion. Then, you pay the remainder before the due date,” urges Bracken. The amount of money saved monthly will vary depending on the balance of the loan. As you pay off the loan, you’ll be paying more toward your principle balance.
There are often extra charges on utilities or optional insurance plans added onto credit card balances that we pay for without requesting the service. Marie Koch of Brentwood reduced her telephone bill by $7.95 a month by inquiring why she was being charged for some features she never ordered. Nashville’s Doug Saia was shocked to learn his exterior gas meter had a small leak that was not only costly, but potentially dangerous as well. “It’s the equivalent of leaving the faucet running all day long. I had no idea how much money was leaking out,” says Saia.
Read Your Receipts
Before leaving a store, review your receipts to make sure you paid the correct price for the items you purchased. Was the coupon that you presented actually deducted from your total sales price?
Washing Your Budget
You can save money when you do laundry, too. According to research conducted by Procter and Gamble, washing clothes in cold water helps preserve clothes and can reduce the average household’s utility bills by an average of $6.25 a month. Bellevue mom of two, Randi Morrison, only uses the cold cycle. “The clothes are washed better and we have the added bonus of lower utility bills,” Morrison says. Doing full loads of laundry also helps cut down on your energy bill.
Where Does Your Water Go?
The water generated from spring thaws and late summer rains provide the chance to turn your sump pump into a built-in irrigation system. Re-routing the water that drains from your gutter or sump pump water to the garden or a tree reduces the need to turn on the sprinkler or garden hose. You’ll also prevent your lawn from becoming too wet in one particular area, which might otherwise result in its needing to be replaced.
Ask for a Savings
Financial expert and author Doris Dobkins suggests consumers give the manufacturer of their favorite products feedback. “Tell them how much you enjoy their products, and ask if they have any manufacturer promotions on other products they offer,” suggests Dobkins. You can also check the Web sites of your favorite household products for offers of free samples and coupons that are only available online.
Light Up Your Budget
If every household in the United States replaced just one bulb or fixture with an energy star qualified model, we would save more than eight billion kilowatts per hour, which is equivalent to removing one million cars from the road per year. This translates into an average savings of $20.50 per year per bulb. You can also let Mother Nature light your way for free and open up the shades and curtains on a bright day to provide light. During the winter months, the sun streaming in will also add an additional element of warmth to your home.
Take advantage of Tennessee’s annual sales tax holiday, which takes place the first weekend in August. During this event, families can purchase clothes, school supplies and computers without the tax burden. “This is our biggest shopping excursion of the year,” says Lee. “Last year, we saved close to $400 by not paying the sales tax.”
Whatever route you take to save money, keep in mind even the smallest efforts can put more change in the piggy bank.
Gina Roberts-Gray is a mother and freelance writer.
more energy-saving tips for your home
- Set your thermostat to 78 degrees or higher in the summer and 68 degrees or lower in winter months.
- Clean or replace air filters monthly.
- Service your heating/cooling unit annually.
- Install a programmable thermostat.
- Set your refrigerator to 40 degrees.
- Don’t overload the dryer.
- Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. They cost more to purchase, but they use 25 percent less energy and last 10 times longer than traditional bulbs.
- Turn off unused lights.
- Seal up leaks by weather-stripping doors and caulking windows.
- Use less hot water by installing low-flow showerheads.
- Repair leaky faucets. A drip can waste up to 48 gallons of water in one week.
Source: Nashville Electric Service