5 Things You Can Do in 15 Minutes That Could Save You $1,500 This Year

by Lauren Treadwell on 26 March 2014 1 comment

There are 101 things you can do to improve your life if you have 15 minutes to spare, and saving yourself some serious cash is one of them. In fact, you can reduce some of your most costly expenses and put almost $1,500 in your pocket in the same time it takes to check your Facebook feed. (See also: 101 Ways to Save Money Around the House)

Reduce Your Screen Brightness

Turning off the TV and computer monitor when you leave the room is a no-brainer way to reduce your energy bills, but you can do even more to save money while the screen is still on.

At the highest brightness setting, LCD, LED, and plasma TVs can cost you from $10 to $80 to each year, depending on the model and size. While having the brightness cranked all the way up makes screens look great on the store floor, it's not necessary in your living room. By turning down the brightness and contrast by half, you can save 15% off your electricity bill annually, and have a prettier picture to boot. Although this may not seem like much on its own, the savings can add up over the life of your TV.

Likewise, decreasing the brightness on your computer screen from the highest setting to the lowest can reduce the monitor's cost by 50%.

Estimated Annual Savings: $12 to $20

Adjust the Thermostat

Turning the thermostat up or down three degrees can save you $74 per year on your energy bills. You can save $84 every year if you adjust the thermostat by degrees 10 degrees at night and any time you'll be out of the house for long stretches.

Combining these two options will maximize your savings, but consistency is key. Investing $30 to $100 in a programmable thermostat may well be worth it within the first year.

Estimated Annual Savings: $74 to $100

Turn Down the Water Heater

Household water heaters can provide water at upwards of 150 degrees, although most manufacturers set the default temperature to 140 degrees. But considering the fact that hot tubs run at only 100 degrees, the default is still way too hot to be comfortable — or safe.

Higher temps require more fuel to reheat the tank when someone uses the hot water. And from a physics standpoint, the hotter the water, the faster it loses heat, necessitating more energy to maintain the temperature.

Reducing the water heater's temperature by 10 degrees can save you between $12 and $30 each year from heat loss and about $130 in tank reheating costs. At the U.S. Department of Energy's recommended setting of 120 degrees, you can still have a steaming-hot shower without letting your money go down the drain. (See also: How to Lower Water Heater Costs)

Estimated Annual Savings: $140 to $160

Renegotiate Prices for Services

Although most companies focus their efforts on advertising discounts for new business, existing customers can receive price cuts as well. In many cases, all you have to do is call up your service providers and ask if they have any better deals to offer. With a few minutes of research beforehand, you can find out what a company's competitors charge for similar service and use those numbers to negotiate. (See also: How to Negotiate With Confidence)

And if you run into resistance, you can always request to terminate your service. The department that handles cancellations can often offer special deals as a last-ditch effort to retain customers.

Even if you're only paying $500 per month spread across utilities, insurance, phone service, Internet access, and cable, you can save yourself $30 each month with a 10% discount on just three of your services. (See also: 6 Tips to Shrink Your Bills)

Estimated Annual Savings: $360

Automate Early Bill Payments

Setting up your bill payments so they occur as early as possible will not only help you save money on late fees, you can also save a bundle on interest and may also be able to receive discounts on your services. Everyone's financial situation is unique, but with US averages of $4,878 in credit card debt at 15% interest and $113 in late fees per household, you could save yourself $56 in interest each month and eliminate penalty charges altogether.

Estimated Annual Savings: $780

So there you have it. 15 minutes just saved you nearly $1,500 over the course of a year. What are some of your quick money-saving tips?

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Guest's picture

Number one is surprising and very smart. I never would have thought about turning down the brightness on the TV. Way to think outside the box!