I first became serious about budgeting and personal finance almost a decade ago while living alone in college. I had gotten out of an awful relationship and after months and months, he finally moved out!
Granted he didn’t contribute much to expenses, he did contribute something. I was a full-time college student, worked a full-time job, and had an internship. I was so busy, but it wasn’t enough. There was a shortage of a couple hundred dollars between my income and my expenses.
I lived in Wisconsin at the time, where they don’t call it the “frozen tundra” for nothing! I recognized the electric bill was my biggest variable utility. After some research and trial and error, I found there were real ways to save each month.
I’m going to share my best tips below, but first I wanted to tell you what this article is not.
I’m not going to tell you to go buy a programmable thermostat, LED lightbulbs, more efficient appliances, solar panels, etc. Those tips are great for how to invest in long term energy savings. But girl, I know if you had thousands of dollars to buy those things, you wouldn’t be reading this!
So, here are the real tips you can start using, today!
1. Passive heating/cooling – This is when you take advantage of ways to heat/cool your home without adjusting the thermostat.
- When it’s cold outside, leave the oven, dryer, or dishwasher open a little after you turn it off to let the residual heat out into your home.
- When it’s warm outside, open the windows in early morning or late evening to let the coolest air in.
2. Manual heating/cooling management – Adjusting the thermostat yourself at key times during the day to save.
- When I’m up and getting ready, I turn the heat/air off in the house.
- When the temperature isn’t too polarized in the spring and fall, I’ll leave it off until I come home for lunch or at the end of the day.
- If it’s winter or summer, I’ll adjust the thermostat 5-10 degrees from normal to help reduce its workload throughout the day. (I drop to 65 in the winter and increase to 75 in the summer.)
- Note: This drives my husband crazy! He is not on board with my most frugal cost saving initiatives. So, I make sure it’s been set to our desired home temperature when he comes home, and he almost never notices.
3. Hand-wash dishes – I am not a fan of hand washing dishes, but our dishwasher runs forever, even on energy saver.
- I hand-wash whenever possible, especially bigger items.
- If you do run the dishwasher, make sure it’s a full load.
4. Wash and dry laundry strategically – This is much simpler than it sounds!
- Wash in cold water whenever possible.
- Make sure you have a full load when you wash.
- If you’re like me and wear multiple layers and feel the need to wash them, wash clothes that really aren’t that dirty on a lighter setting.
- Air dry if it makes sense. I do this for thicker blankets and comforters that I’d have to run in the dryer forever to get dry. If you’re super cool, use a clothes line and dry what you can that way. I bought one once, but it kept blowing over in the wind and I didn’t like it enough to find a solution. If we ever go into budget survival mode again though, you’d better believe I’ll be weighing that down and figuring it out.
5. Avoid the oven when possible.
- The oven uses a lot of electricity. In the summer it can also heat your home a bit and cause your air conditioner to work harder.
- To reduce meals cooked in the oven:
- Eat one cold-meal a week (sandwich, salad, cereal, okay I know this doesn’t sound appetizing. I bet there are actual tasty meals that you can make without an oven but I’m no chef. Maybe Google it!)
- Microwave leftovers one day a week.
- Use the stove top, rather than the oven.
- Use anything smaller than the oven essentially (toaster oven, air fryer, etc.).
There are also small ways you can reduce your energy expenses:
- Turn off lights when possible.
- Unplug electronics not in use.
- Take shorter showers.
- Don’t run hot water when unnecessary.
- Use the same towel for a few days to reduce your washing. (Same could be true for coats, sweaters, etc.)
- Adjust thermostats in your fridge, hot water heater, etc. (I wouldn’t do this personally, but if you’re really trying to get creative it might be something to look into!)
A friend of mine once used the phrase, “is the juice worth the squeeze?”. It still makes me smile to think about the concept.
Some of these tips will be easy to incorporate into your life, and others you’d rather pay the money it saves then to hand-wash all your dishes. I get it! There will be different seasons in your life when you’re willing to sacrifice more than others.
When we had our first child, my escape was taking long hot showers. So, being concerned about the water temperature and the length of time I took a shower went out the window!
I love these tips because they are evergreen! You can use them whether you make $20,000 per year, or you make $200,000 per year. A penny saved and all that!
My husband and I do quite well nowadays, but we recently had an extremely expensive couple months with car repairs, home maintenance, and preparing for our second child. I’m doing a spending detox as we build our reserves back up which has meant being more conscious about all expenses, including electric.
What money saving tips do you have? Drop them in the comments below to help your fellow frugal friends save even more!