Saving money doesn’t have to mean hiring a financial consultant or cutting your flexible spending budget. Reduce your bills by cashing in with these six simple strategies, some of which are as easy as flipping a switch.
1. Make your appliances work the night shift
Utility companies tend to charge more during the day, when everyone is using their appliances. It might be difficult to transfer all of your utility usage to off-peak hours, but you can easily save some on water, gas, and electricity costs by running your dishwasher in the evening. And if your clothes don’t wrinkle easily, save on laundry expenses by timing your wash cycle to end just before bed and drying your clothes overnight.
2. Unplug electronics when you aren’t using them
Your toaster, cell phone charger, and other devices continue to use power, known as vampire power, even when they aren’t in use. Frugal Dad suggests plugging all your gadgets into one extension cord to make unplugging more convenient.
3. Eat more local and seasonal produce, and cut down on meat
Meat is more expensive than produce, regardless of its source. And all produce is not equal—a significant amount of the fruits and vegetables at the grocery store is shipped from miles away, elevating the price. So scope out your nearest farmer’s market to find fresher and cheaper fruits and vegetables. Your wallet and your body will thank you. (For more on eating healthy, check out our guide to the new food “pyramid.”)
4. Use the microwave in the summer
And turn on the fan and the oven during the winter. Using your oven during the warmer months can cause your air-conditioning costs to skyrocket. So stick to the microwave for food preparation during the summer, and then bake more in the winter, when you’ll actually want your oven to help heat your home. Running your fan in the winter can also lower your energy bill: change the blade direction so the fan creates an updraft, and it’ll recycle heat throughout the room.
5. Cancel home telephone service
If your landline rings considerably less than your cell phone, think about disconnecting it. You can often converse with people on the same cell phone network as you for free, and Skype and Google Voice will let you make domestic calls at no cost as well. If you’d still prefer to keep your home phone, consider eliminating add-on services such as caller ID and call waiting to cut the bill.
6. Go generic
Instead of taking brand-name prescription medication, switch to cheaper generic versions. (You should talk to your doctor or pharmacist first, though—they can advise you if there are any specific medications you might not want to switch.) Check out the special generics programs at large pharmacies: Walgreens offers a 90-day supply of over 400 medications for $12 to members of its Prescription Savings Club, and Walmart provides a 30-day supply of many medications for $4 as part of its $4 Prescription Program.
Whether you’re saving up for a big item or just trying to pay your monthly bills, penny-pinching doesn’t have to be an arduous experience. Make a few simple but impactful changes to your usual routine, and start saving in a relatively painless way.