Sometimes it pays to be silly. If you’re willing to not take yourself too seriously, maybe some of these tips could help you save on your electric bill in ways you might not have thought.
Before we dive in, let’s review the components of my electric bill which contributed the most to the cost. The categories were, from highest use to smallest:
- Water Heater
- Kitchen (Dishwasher, Refrigerator, Oven, Stove)
- “Always On”
You might find your top categories to be similar, especially in this age where lighting and electronics are getting increasingly more efficient.
Hopefully these tips, from a month of summer in the South, can help you cut your electric bill without having to do anything too majorly drastic. Let’s start with “cooling” (and then heating for the winter).
Note: This is a guest post collaboration from Frugal Kam, a woman who has been living and breathing a minimalist lifestyle just because it’s what she’s always known. We have much to learn.
Saving on Cooling
First think creatively, lighten up, and hear me out.
Stuck at home on a super hot day?
Here’s a frugal trick—get a towel, make it wet, and put it on your neck or back. Instant gratification and you didn’t even have to turn your AC on.
One that sounds silly but might actually work for some of you:
Move your TV out of your room and into the shadiest part of your house. Many people have bedrooms upstairs, and heat rises. So, instead of binging Netflix in your toaster oven, why not move the TV down where it’s cool and place a low cost fan right on you.
And a tip for the adventurous ones…
Take a stroll to the local mall, or bookstore, or even a library. All of these places can give you free AC, and even just a few hours of peak energy costs charged to the “man” instead of your place can make a (positive) dent on your bill over time.
Feeling frustrated and hot?
Take a cold shower to cool off. Or do what I do, and never wear pants. It’s your house, you do you.
And then of course there’s the obvious tip; don’t leave the doors open when the AC is on, and don’t leave it on when you leave the house.
The watchful dad on the thermostat meme is funny, but also somewhat true when it comes to your electric bill.
Saving on Heating
For the first tip on heating, let’s talk investing.
And I’m not talking about the stock market this time, but purchases you can make that over the long term can save you a pretty penny. It all adds up when talking about monthly expenses like an electric bill.
Now my first experience with this item did not work as advertised when I first tried it, but the second time was a charm.
I’m talking about a heated vest.
This is something you can get off Amazon for a reasonable price, and keep you warm and cozy for hours. With mine, I can stay comfy for 6 hours, enough to binge enough episodes for me.
Like I said, the first time I bought one of these it didn’t work and so I returned it. That said, if you find the right one (the one that worked for me was a gift, also off Amazon) it could keep you from reaching for that expensive thermostat.
Another great item is a space heater.
I got one for a paltry $20 when I was in grad school. It still works like a charm!
Basically, you plug it in and it can keep an entire bedroom warm without using that expensive heat and wasting on the entire house. Plus, the electric charge that the space heater draws is not nearly as much as the central heater would be.
More Tips on Heating (Part 2)
Since I’m small and always cold, I’ve got passion for finding ways to stay warm.
A few more that can help you survive with lower temperatures inside:
- Wear beanies inside the house
- Always wear socks, and slippers preferably
- Wear warm clothing (fleece is usually the warmest)
- Also wear two pants, leggings and fleece in the winter
- Use blankets as much as possible
- Hold a mug of hot water for your hands
And maybe to give a few obvious ones, open the curtains when it’s sunny and let that light in. Or, keep your curtains closed for insulation at night. Certain black out curtains can help with keeping a room warmer than without.
For something unconventional…
When you’re done with the oven, leave it open. I love standing in front of it on a cold day.
Another idea you might forget, the ol’ fashioned fireplace can be a great, cheap generator of energy for hours. If you have any friends with lots of trees on the property, I’m sure they’d be happy to share some free firewood especially if you can trade labor (help chopping) or maybe home baked goods for it.
Saving on the Water Heater
The energy bill from your electric provider can be a great place for tips on saving on your bill.
One that they shared with me recently was to turn down the maximum temperature on the water heater itself.
That might be the simplest, low effort way to automatically save on your electric bill without ever having to think about it again.
Next is the idea to always use cold water when you can.
That pertains to laundry, as modern machines and detergents do a great job of cleaning even without needing warm or hot water.
Even dishwashing detergent has gotten so powerful now that some companies claim that using their detergent saves more water than manually washing the dishes would.
With these better detergents you might not even have to rinse dishes very much (or at all) like you used to, and certainly you can save on using hot water for that.
Only run your dishwasher when it’s full.
That’s one of those I’ve always done naturally but realized that it’s not something everyone does. Again, going to that idea of being scared of chunks of food stuck to your dishes. Modern technology is good now. Let it help you and your electric bill.
Finally, be aware of your showers.
Don’t shower at the hottest temperature, and don’t linger. Showers are for showers, and you can spend so much more time in your comfy heated vest or layered blankets than the temporary warmth of a steaming shower.
If you can help it, don’t take baths. Those can use more water than a quick shower, and again that can add up like anything else.
Kitchen (Dishwasher, refrigerator, oven, stove)
For all of your kitchen appliances, you can bite the bullet and upgrade to save.
Think of it like an investment like anything else, but make sure you do your research. And don’t ever get into debt to make one of these purchases, even on one of those “no interest” plans.
A quick story:
I heard from Andrew about how he bought furniture using one of their “no interest” store credit plans. Common features on a plan can include nasty interest charges and fees if you are late on a payment.
But what you might not realize is that the terms charge you with phantom fees all because you didn’t read the fine print.
In this case, young Andrew was making the “minimum payment for no interest” on the account. Until he realized that these minimum payments would not pay off the loan in time at the end of the agreement, leading to back charges on the entire principal of every month the loan was active.
If he didn’t stumble on that detail, he could’ve paid so much more in interest while thinking he was staying current on the plan with their “no interest minimum payment” (which was different, lower, than the “minimum payment”).
It should go without saying that you shouldn’t put these purchases on a credit card either.
It doesn’t make sense to pay hundreds in interest just to save $10 a month on an electric bill.
Common Sense “Easy Wins”
I hope it goes without saying that you should turn off lights when you’re not using them.
For the adventurous types again, try using candles more and lights/electronics less. Get in tune with your ancestors.
One for the appliances… only run your washer and dryer on full loads. Even if you’re only washing with cold water, the electricity use from the dryer can be significant, and if you’re constantly running little loads that can add up.
Going back to the basics, unplug things when you are not using them.
Even though most electronics should be better at not draining, you can see how for my bill the “Always On” category was actually above electronics and laundry. Maybe that’s a coffee machine, maybe a toaster, or a more standard computer or device charger.
You could try those energy saving power strips (surge protectors) too, which should help save on electricity costs from low drain or “always on” devices.
Replacing old light bulbs is a commonly used strategy for saving energy, and it’s a very cheap method. Today’s lights are so energy efficient and very cheap, and super easy to replace even for the most “not handy” person.
More Special Savings
When you go out of town, make sure to adjust the thermostat to allow for maximum savings. That means that in the summer, your air temperature should be way up, and for the winter, the heat should be way down.
Speaking of the thermostat, check to see if your installed thermostat has a phone app which you can download for free.
Having this allows me to change the temperature when I’m at work, or out and about, after realizing I had accidently left it on.
The app I use is provided by a company called Honeywell, and it’s something I bet we will see more and more of, as homes become more and more “smart” like our phones.
As with all things in personal finance, pay attention to where all of your money is going.
Whether you’re a new homeowner, or someone who has owned a home for a while and is finally getting serious about saving money and living within your means, do your best at figuring out what everything costs, from your HVAC to your appliances and everything in between.
You don’t have to necessarily budget every single thing you buy, I don’t; but you should get a good idea of where your money is going and why.
In the case of utilities, your energy company should provide you with a good breakdown of your costs in each monthly bill, and many of them provide actionable tips right there on the bill.
More and more people and companies are pushing to become energy efficient, and that should continue to help everyone to save on their electric bills. Keep your eye out for tomorrow’s great tips and ideas.
And finally, don’t get too caught up and serious with all of this.
If none of these tips spoke to you, that’s fine. Figure out your own silly ways to save!
Once you’ve figured out ways to save and cut unnecessary expenses, then you can have more money to invest—which will push you down the path towards financial freedom.
There are great resources out there, including this website, which can help you figure out how to best put your savings to work.
None of this is really a quick fix shortcut to wealth, and saving money on your electric bill won’t make you a billionaire.
But taking consistent action like this compounds over time, and as you get better at saving money you get more money to invest, which all compounds to build serious wealth if you keep investing and keep saving.