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At first glance, the “bills and utilities” category is another “necessities” budget category that can be difficult to cut. Since bills and utilities are often necessary costs, it may seem like you have no wiggle room to save here.
I mean, you’ve got to have electricity, gas, water, internet, cell phone service, etc, right? (Yes, internet and cell phone are necessities in my eyes.)
There’s no way to get around spending what you’re currently spending in this budget category, right?
Wrong. It just takes a little creativity and a frugal mindset to find ways to cut costs- in any category!
You CAN save money in your “Bills and Utilities” budget category.
So how do you cut costs on bills and utilities?
Note: This is part of my “Saving on Necessities” series of posts. If you missed my post on saving in your “Auto and Transport” budget category, read it here: 33 Ways to Save on Your Auto and Transport Budget
Like every budget category, there are frugal ways to make it work- without completely ruining your expectations for comfortable living. It can be done with some savvy service switches and easy home maintenance tweaks. You may even enjoy making some of these simple changes, knowing you’re saving money while saving the environment. Read on for some ideas that you can implement right away to start saving.
Ways to save on your Bills and Utilities budget
- Cut cable. I know this can be a difficult decision when you’re used to having cable, but if you’re still paying for cable, you are most likely paying too much to watch tv. If you can’t bear the thought of giving up your shows completely, I have some cheaper replacement services for you in my next tip.
- Replace cable with Sling, Hulu, Netflix, and/or Amazon Prime Video. Obviously, the most money saving would be to quit cable and not replace it with anything, but if you’re like my family, some shows and sports must be available for a happy family. 🙂
Sling – This service costs $25/month and allows my husband to watch all of the Sporting KC MLS away games. Before, he was going to Sports Bars to watch the games, buying dinner, and by the time the tip was added in, the price didn’t make it worth it. If there are two away games per month, we save money by having this service. It has a lot of other shows as well, but the soccer is the reason we got it. We can cancel it during the off-season to save as well.
Hulu – This service costs $9/month and we can watch most tv shows that we are interested in at our leisure. We don’t have to watch live, which is great when there are shows that my young kiddo shouldn’t be watching.
Netflix – This service costs $12/month and provides movies and full seasons of shows without commercials. We mainly use it for all of the kids shows and super hero shows.
Amazon Prime Video – This service is free with an Amazon Prime membership which is $99/year (which makes sense for my family since we shop on Amazon a lot) and has a variety of free shows and movies.
- Look for phone deals. Many times companies are offering great deals on phones and cell phone services. Do a little research and find out what offers are currently out there and what your family/friends are paying. We like T-mobile because the service is good where we live. We pay $80/month for 3 phone lines with unlimited talk/text (including kickbacks for going under on our data each month). And my favorite perk from T-mobile is the T-mobile Tuesdays deals. Every Tuesday, we get special offers- for each phone line- just for being T-mobile customers. Sometimes it’s a $2 gift card to Dunkin Donuts or Baskin Robbins (which means $6 total for our family). Other times it’s a $4 movie ticket (IMAX/reclining leather seats experience) and there have been all kinds of coupons. Sometimes it’s discounts on gas prices. We got matching free umbrellas one week. I LOVE T-mobile!
- Get a free home energy audit. Many utility companies will provide a free energy audit of your home including a report with details on what you can do to save more money on electricity and gas. So it’s worth a call to check. For example, if you live in the KC area and your energy companies are KCP&L or Spire, you can call and schedule a free energy audit. I highly recommend this because, not only is the audit free, but they will install quite a few products for free that will help you immediately start saving you money as part of the audit. They gave us more than a dozen LED light bulbs and a smart power strip, and offered water-efficient shower heads as well. Our audit also helped us learn that our second fridge in the garage was not energy-efficient and a big money waster. We unplugged it and consolidated our frozen food to our fridge in the kitchen, saving on our electric bill.
- Install a programmable thermostat. The convenience and savings of a programmable thermostat make it a must-have. We got a fancy Nest thermostat for FREE from our electric company in exchange for allowing them to cycle the air conditioning from time to time during the summer. It is usually done during work hours so you’d almost never notice. Plus, it’s saving you money!
- Turn down the air at night and when you’re not home. A programmable thermostat makes this simple, automatic, and easily saves you money.
- Turn off lights when leaving rooms. Save electricity and the environment by turning off unnecessary lights.
- Open curtains for natural light. Opening curtains can allow you to turn off the lights in an otherwise dark room. This has the added benefit of warming a cold room and giving you vitamin D from the sunshine.
- Install LED light bulbs. When your bulbs burn out, replace them with LEDs. Our electric company gave us many for free when we signed up for their free energy audit. They also provide coupons for LED bulbs, so check with yours and see what you can save.
- Wash clothes in cold water. This saves electricity and still gets your clothes clean.
- Hang dry your clothes to use your dryer less. Save electricity and keep your house cooler in the summer by hanging your clothes to dry. You can hang them outside or get a little drying rack to keep inside. And your dryer won’t be heating up the house unnecessarily.
- Cook outdoors on the grill. This will help your air conditioner to not work as hard and keep you from overheating in the kitchen.
- Unplug electronics when not in use or use smart surge protectors. Don’t let your electronics become electricity vampires. Use a smart surge protector to shut off power to everything plugged into the strip when the primary item is turned off. For example, at our house, we have our Xbox as the primary item, so when we turn it off, the smart surge protector shuts off all power to it, the tv screen, and the sound system.
- Install energy efficient shower heads. This will help you use less water without noticing a difference in pressure.
- Take shorter showers. A five-minute shower can save you gallons and gallons of water, which can really add up over the course of a month.
- Turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth or washing your face. The faucet doesn’t need to be running and sending water straight down the drain while you do your bathroom routine. Turn it on to wet your toothbrush or wash cloth, and then turn it off.
- Run the dishwasher only when it is full. You’ll make the most of each washing cycle by only running the dishwasher when it’s full, using less electricity, less water, and less cleaning solutions.
- Buy energy efficient appliances. When it’s time to replace an appliance, shop for the most energy efficient models. It will keep your monthly bills down and save you money in the long run.
- Dust fridge back and vents. When your fridge gets dusty, it has to work harder, so keep it cleaned and save.
- Keep freezer full. A full freezer doesn’t have to work as hard to keep the food frozen. Make sure you don’t have a bunch of empty space in there. If you do, stock up on frozen foods when they’re on sale.
- Insulate windows. Keep your paid-for air inside. Make sure the windows are caulked around the edge so air isn’t leaking in/out, and put up clear plastic window covers in the winter. You’ll save all year-round when your windows are well-insulated.
- Use curtains. If you want to naturally heat a room with sunshine, open the curtains. To keep a room cooler, keep the curtains shut.
- Keep your house 3 degrees cooler /warmer than it currently is. This can save you 5% on your monthly energy bills. You can run your ceiling fan to help cool/heat your home as needed to make up the difference. Changing the temperature by 7 degrees can save you up to 10% of your monthly costs.
- Wear clothes accordingly. If your house feels too cold/hot, rather than cranking up the heater or air conditioner, try warmer or cooler clothes. Strategically place blankets and hand fans where they are most needed.
- Catch water runoff in a rain barrel to water outdoor plants. I water my backyard plants solely from our rain barrel. There are cheap and easy ways to make your own with a trash can.
- Recycle. You’ll have less trash to put out at the curb, which will save on trash bags and any extra bag fees that your neighborhood may have. Obviously, this is good for the environment too and will make you a better steward to our planet.
- Make a little money back by using recycling programs. Recycle some items for cash back, like milk bottles at the grocery store. Take advantage of this where possible.
- Do your own mowing, cleaning, cooking, yard work, etc. I know this is another one that you may not be too excited about, but make it fun for you. You can listen to music or podcasts while you work. Or split up the chores. My husband loves to cook so he will often handle that chore while I love yard work, so that’s actually relaxing time for me: Why Weeding Your Garden is Free Therapy. Bonus: yard work is an opportunity to get some fresh air and sunshine.
- Sign up for balanced monthly bill payments. Most energy companies offer this option for free if you call and ask. They’ll determine an average cost so you are billed the same amount every month. It is good to be billed the same amount every month when you’re on a budget so you aren’t surprised with a large bill in any month. You know what you’ll be paying each month, and you can keep track of whether your actual usage is over/under so you’ll be ready when your company re-evaluates your balanced monthly payment in a year.
So there you have it. 29 ways to save money on your “Bills and Utilities” budget category.
Now it’s time to flex your frugal thumbs. Some of these changes may be hard to make. But you’ll realize it’s worth it when you are saving enough money to do what you really want to do. It could be to quit your job and finally stay home, or it could be to go on that trip you’ve always dreamed of. Keep your eyes on the prize and start saving!
And please share any other ideas that I may have missed in the comments below.
Happy frugal budgeting,
For winter-specific tips on cutting your energy bills, see my post: 10 tips for saving on winter energy bills