utilities http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/8781/all en-US 8 Savings Mistakes Even Smart People Make http://www.wisebread.com/8-savings-mistakes-even-smart-people-make <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-savings-mistakes-even-smart-people-make" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/woman_piggy_bank_000035836870.jpg" alt="Smart woman making classic savings mistakes with finances" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>You're not a finance expert just yet (that's probably why you're reading Wise Bread), and I don't expect you to make all the right moves with your money. The truth is, everybody makes mistakes &mdash; even yours truly &mdash; but it's important to check yourself before you wreck yourself when it comes to your cash. Take a look at these savings mistakes than even smart folks like you and I make and consider how to avoid these potentially costly financial faux pas.</p> <h2>1. Funneling Money Into Modest Growth Plans</h2> <p>Even avid savers can make mistakes when it comes to funneling money away for a rainy day or a future investment. Because if it's sitting in a modest growth plan, it's not doing you much good, and it'll take you much longer to reach your savings goals.</p> <p>Joe LoPresti, registered investment advisor and creator of the Investment Education Institute, agrees.</p> <p>&quot;I think the biggest savings mistake that smart people make is putting a lot of money into modest growth plans like low APR savings accounts, CDs, bonds, mutual funds, or just simple 401(k)s, without putting some money aside for active investment &mdash; investments that will grow their money while their still earning it, not just preserving it for later,&quot; he says. &quot;Buying 'safe' assets is something that smart people do, but what they don't consider is that those safe investments will not significantly grow the nest egg you're trying to establish. In fact, locking your savings up in low-yield investments may actually prevent you from growing your wealth during the up-swinging market that we're currently experiencing.&quot;</p> <h2>2. Avoiding Credit Cards at All Costs</h2> <p>While I'll never encourage you to be a spendthrift with your credit cards, driving yourself into debt, that doesn't mean you should ward off plastic altogether. Having credit builds credit, and you need it to make large milestone purchases like a new home. Just be smart about the cards you keep. Read the fine print and choose the best card for your needs to <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-awesome-credit-card-perks-you-didnt-know-about">maximize the benefits</a>. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/cash-back-vs-travel-rewards-pick-the-right-credit-card-for-you?ref=seealso">Should I Choose a Cash Back or Travel Rewards Credit Card?</a>)</p> <h2>3. Sticking With Commodity Providers to Avoid the Hassle of Switching</h2> <p>I see this all the time within my circle of friends and among family members, and I can't say that I'm entirely innocent, either. But sticking with commodity providers &mdash; like cable, Internet, and cell phone service &mdash; because you don't want to fuss with the hassle of switching, can cost you big bucks over the long term, and give you a major headache. It may be in your best interest to at least research other options. Ask for employer discounts, switching incentives and other discounts, like military or student savings.</p> <h2>4. Buying on Impulse Instead of Cost-Comparing</h2> <p>Before you buy anything &mdash; an-y-thing &mdash; you should compare its cost to other retailers and available options. Whip out your phone right in the store and do a bit of amateur cost comparing to see if you can get it elsewhere cheaper. If you can, cool your jets and save that cash.</p> <h2>5. Saving Too Much &mdash; Yep, There's Such a Thing</h2> <p>Saving too much is impossible, right? Wrong. You can absolutely save too much if you have no plan for the money you're saving. What good does a load of cash do you if it just sits in the bank your whole life? Investing your money is how you'll make more of it (considering that you're investing wisely, of course), and you should start establishing savings milestones and planning the investments you'll make with the money if you want to enhance the quality &mdash; not quantity &mdash; of your life. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-cheap-easy-ways-to-invest-your-first-1000?ref=seealso">4 Smart Ways to Invest Your First $1000</a>)</p> <h2>6. Waiting for a Monetary Milestone to Invest</h2> <p>&quot;All investment professionals will tell you to wait until you have $5,000 to $10,000 before you should invest. That's wrong!&quot; cautions Sam Rad, a UCLA instructor and certified financial planner. &quot;The only reason they tell you this is because it's not worth it for them to deal with you until you have enough money. The best advice is to start as early as possible with as little as possible.The quicker you get started on investing, the more compounding you will get. If you place all of it in a bank and wait until you have a big lump sum to invest, you will have lost time.&quot;</p> <p>Rad provides an exercise analogy to drive his point home:</p> <p>&quot;Similar to lifting weights, you don't want to walk into a gym and try to lift 300 pounds if it's your first time lifting,&quot; he says. &quot;Start with 25 pounds and work your way up.&quot;</p> <p>I agree with Rad, but only if you don't have a large investment in mind. For instance, I'm saving for an investment property for which I'll need to put a substantial down payment. I'm not particularly interested in jeopardizing this investment by playing the market in the meantime, so I'm sticking to my milestone. In these cases, I think it's okay to stick to your original plan, but, like Rad says, if you don't have one, there's really no reason to wait to invest. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/9-silly-reasons-people-dont-invest-but-should?ref=seealso">9 Silly Reasons People Don't Invest</a>)</p> <h2>7. Failing to Consider the Fees Associated With Investment Accounts</h2> <p>Sure, you've saved a good chunk of change and you're super excited to invest, but have you considered how much it'll cost you on the backend? Nothing in life is free, and there are fees associated with your investment accounts.</p> <p>&quot;Not paying attention to the costs associated with administering your 401(k) or investments is a big mistake,&quot; warns Fat Wallet's Bryan Marsden. &quot;They auto-deduct money and put it into 401(k) or other investments without looking at what the fees are for that account/investment. This is especially true if investing in mutual funds. Some of them have much higher fees than if you would pick, say, an index fund. When someone looks at an investment fee of .08% versus a .07% they don't think much of it. But if you take that and extrapolate it over 30 or 40 years, the differences can be significant in how much you pay out for fees.&quot;</p> <p>If you'd like a bit of tech in your corner in this regard, Vanguard has a <a href="https://investor.vanguard.com/mutual-funds/low-cost">nifty expense tool</a> to show you the difference between a 1.02% and .18%.</p> <p>&quot;Considering that some index funds can be around .06% and mutual funds can get at or over 1.5%, you get the idea,&quot; Marsden adds. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/exchange-traded-funds-the-low-fee-investment-option-you-dont-know-about?ref=seealso">ETFs: The Low-Fee Investment Option You Don't Know About</a>)</p> <h2>8. Keeping Savings in a Low-Yield Checking Account</h2> <p>You're not married to your bank, so you don't have to bank with that particular institution for every financial aspect of your life. While you may be happy with your checking account, your institution may not offer the best savings account options, so it's important to look around before you decide where to stash your cash.</p> <p><em>Are you committing any of these money-saving sins? Do you have other savings mistakes that smart people make that you'd like to add? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/mikey-rox">Mikey Rox</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-savings-mistakes-even-smart-people-make">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/will-a-dental-discount-plan-save-you-money">Will A Dental Discount Plan Save You Money?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-gettin-baptized-in-the-watahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-epiphany">The Gettin&#039;-Baptized-in-the-Watah Epiphany</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-sleek-marketing-ploys-aimed-at-getting-more-of-your-grocery-money">5 Sleek Marketing Ploys Aimed at Getting More of Your Grocery Money</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/looking-at-your-expenses-with-new-eyes">Looking at Your Expenses with New Eyes</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/wise-breads-best-and-worst-financial-decisions-in-2010">Wise Bread&#039;s Best and Worst Financial Decisions in 2010</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Frugal Living cost comparing savings utilities Tue, 14 Apr 2015 04:59:58 +0000 Mikey Rox 1379726 at http://www.wisebread.com 8 Ways You're Wasting Electricity Without Realizing It http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-youre-wasting-electricity-without-realizing-it <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-ways-youre-wasting-electricity-without-realizing-it" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/woman-cooking-oven-176826878-small.jpg" alt="woman cooking oven" title="woman cooking oven" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>With energy prices on the rise and antique power grids patched together with gum and twine, it's time to take some control and get serious about reducing your use of the juice. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-easy-ways-to-lower-your-electric-bill?ref=seealso">15 Easy Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill</a>)</p> <p>Here are eight ways you're probably wasting electricity without realizing it.</p> <h2>1. Plugging, But Not Playing</h2> <p>Forget about the zombies; it's much more likely that your home is filled with vampires. Energy vampires are those devices and appliances we tend to leave plugged in 24/7 whether we're using them or not. And &mdash; on or off &mdash; every item that's plugged in is sucking power vampire-style. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, <a href="http://energy.gov/articles/are-energy-vampires-sucking-you-dry">vampire energy can add as much as 10%</a> to a consumer's monthly energy bill.</p> <p>Let's use your microwave as an example. How often throughout the day do you use it to prepare food? And yet, it remains plugged in, digitally displaying the time and silently sipping electricity in the process. It's a like a 30-pound clock with a motor and rotating cooking tray. Any appliance that uses energy to do virtually nothing should at least pay you a sincere compliment every time you walk by it (a feature that industrial engineers should diligently be working on, in my humble opinion).</p> <p>Help drain energy vampires by unplugging electronics and appliances you seldom use. And if you're a gadget hound, read up on the <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000RGF29Q/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B000RGF29Q&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=C4OGZYRT3FH5G6LE">Kill A Watt EZ Electricity Usage Monitor</a>. For around $30.00, this handy little product calculates the energy consumed by keeping any electronic appliance plugged in and forecasts your related costs weekly, monthly, and yearly. Just plug it into an outlet, plug your device or appliance into it, and get a digital read-out. Once you see how the numbers add up, it'll be difficult to leave those vampires alone.</p> <h2>2. Cranking Up the Oven</h2> <p>When it comes to cooking a single item, an oven is often the &quot;nuclear option.&quot; That single-serving pizza or leftover tuna casserole could be warmed up in the microwave and then finished in the toaster oven. For little jobs, consider how to cook in stages using smaller appliances that sip electricity instead of automatically gravitating toward the power-sucking behemoths.</p> <h2>3. Getting in Hot Water</h2> <p>According to EnergyStar.gov, simply <a href="http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_save_energy_at_home">heating the water accounts for 90% of the total power</a> it takes wash a load of laundry. That's a whole lot of wattage. For regular loads, switch to cold water for a month and see if you notice any difference in the cleanliness of your duds. Reserve warmer water settings for fighting oil-based stains. Your budget will thank you for it.</p> <h2>4. Dish-Drying</h2> <p>Hot water helps your dishwasher do its job, but drying with heat is added energy drain that's largely unnecessary. Today, most dishwashers feature a heated drying option that you can simply choose not to use. And though heated drying does help avoid spots on dishes, you can get the same benefit by adding a rinsing agent.</p> <h2>5. Fighting the Flow</h2> <p>As obvious as it sounds, if your home features a central air-conditioning and heating system, check your vents. Vents have a way of blending into the background of our homes; many get closed inadvertently and that can result in systems that have to work extra hard to do the job. While you're at it, make sure vents, ducts, and any filters are clean and installed properly. If you find dirt or debris that's unreachable, or if you see visible signs of mold, it may be time to have your <a href="http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/airduct.html#deciding">air ducts professionally cleaned</a>.</p> <h2>6. Lighting Up for the Holidays</h2> <p>Still using your dad's old string of holiday lights from 1975? Well, those incandescent bulbs are using just enough electricity to drain your gift-buying budget. Ditch the old and switch to new LED lights. You'll get hours of twinkling for a tiny fraction of the electric output.</p> <h2>7. Fridge-Gazing</h2> <p>It's a popular pastime, but standing in front of that open fridge trying decide if you have enough ingredients for a decent turkey club isn't doing your electric bill any favors. Ponder before you open the fridge or after you've quickly scanned its contents and shut the door.</p> <p>And while we're on the subject, make sure you're doing all you can to <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/make-your-fridge-last-almost-forever-with-these-8-tips">help your refrigerator last for years</a>.</p> <h2>8. Ignoring Power Hours</h2> <p>Though it might not cut your electricity consumption, reserving energy-intensive tasks for off-peak hours can reduce the rate you pay. Since many power companies offer discounted rates after 8:00 p.m., focus not only on <em>how</em> you do things, but <em>when</em>. Check with your local power company to determine if it offers an off-peak discount and when off-peak hours begin and end. Then, whenever possible, schedule your laundry and dishwashing tasks to fit within that period.</p> <p>It's easy to think of electricity as a mysterious force coursing through power lines that magically illuminates all we do. But in reality, it's a concrete resource that we have direct control over. Luckily, we don't need to understand electricity to conserve it. So the next time you plug in, charge up, turn on, or warm up, think of ways to do each smarter.</p> <p><em>How do you save energy in your home? What methods have the greatest impact on your electricity bill?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/kentin-waits">Kentin Waits</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-youre-wasting-electricity-without-realizing-it">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-cheap-and-easy-homemade-mosquito-repellents">4 Cheap and Easy Homemade Mosquito Repellents</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/naturally-get-rid-of-ants-in-your-kitchen">Naturally Get Rid of Ants in Your Kitchen</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-things-in-your-kitchen-that-get-rid-of-bad-smells-naturally">6 Things in Your Kitchen That Get Rid of Bad Smells Naturally</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/youre-washing-your-clothes-too-often-what-to-do-instead">You&#039;re Washing Your Clothes Too Often! (What to Do Instead)</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/breathe-easy-10-natural-air-fresheners">Breathe Easy: 10 Natural Air Fresheners</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Green Living Home electricity utilities Wed, 08 Oct 2014 15:00:04 +0000 Kentin Waits 1227736 at http://www.wisebread.com 15 Easy Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill http://www.wisebread.com/15-easy-ways-to-lower-your-electric-bill <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/15-easy-ways-to-lower-your-electric-bill" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/piggy-bank-470351123.jpg" alt="piggy bank" title="piggy bank" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>My family is looking to move into a new house in the near future. With all the added rooms and exciting DIY projects on the horizon, I realize we'll also need to more carefully watch our utilities costs. More space equals more places to heat, plug in lamps, and otherwise use electricity. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-ways-to-win-the-war-against-this-summers-electric-bill?ref=seealso">4 Ways to Win the War With Your Electric Bill This Summer</a>)</p> <p>Whether you live in a small studio apartment or a sprawling McMansion, there are some smart, easy ways you can cut down on your electric bill. And many of these tips are things you can implement today to garner savings immediately. As always, if you have more tips to share, please leave them in the comments!</p> <h2>1. Open and Close</h2> <p>For some of us, switching on lights is more habit than necessity. So, in the daylight, avoid using lamps and other illuminating devices. Instead, open blinds to let the sun flood in. On the other hand, you can keep a home considerably cooler on hot days by closing curtains. I know this from personal experience! Before hitting high on your AC unit, you might want to try this trick.</p> <h2>2. Set the Bar</h2> <p>Have you looked at your water heater lately? Chances are your temperature might be set above the energy efficient suggestion of <a href="http://www.treehugger.com/clean-water/does-turning-down-my-water-heater-really-make-a-difference.html">120 degrees</a> (or often marked &quot;warm&quot; or as a triangle on your heater's settings). If you need scalding hot water for tea or cooking, heat it on the stove.</p> <h2>3. Maintain It</h2> <p>Something as silly as a dirty furnace filter can cost you money when it comes to heating costs. The same goes with any other machine or component you must maintain. Plus, keeping your operations up-to-date is safer than neglecting them, and it may extend the life of the appliance &mdash; meaning even bigger savings. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/make-your-fridge-last-almost-forever-with-these-8-tips?ref=seealso)">Make Your Fridge Last Forever</a>)</p> <h2>4. Unplug Yourself</h2> <p>This tip is twofold: Unplug your electronics when they're not in use &mdash; including battery chargers and power adapters &mdash; they still suck power from outlets and power strips even when off. Better yet, truly unplug by heading outdoors to read a book or to exercise. Totally free!</p> <h2>5. Negotiate</h2> <p>Take stock of your bills from the past year and see if you can strike a deal with your provider(s). You may also explore spreading out your costs so they are the same each month versus fluctuating seasonally to help make your budget more predictable. Don't be shy to shop around if there's more than one electric provider in your area.</p> <h2>6. Shift Your Day</h2> <p>While you're at it, ask your provider if there are &quot;off peak&quot; or &quot;time-of-use&quot; rates or times of the day when electricity costs less. You can choose to do your laundry, blow-dry your hair, cook a great meal, wash your dishes, or do any other task at the cheaper rate.</p> <h2>7. Slow the Flow</h2> <p>I think we all remember the &quot;<a href="http://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheShowerhead.htm">Seinfeld&quot; episode</a> with the superintendent switches out the showerheads to low flow. If you're really into pinching pennies, swapping yours out can mean <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/environment/ethicallivingblog/2008/mar/14/switchtolowflowshowerheads">less water to heat</a> over the course of your shower. Limiting yourself to a shorter shower, too, is another drop in the bucket.</p> <h2>8. Upgrade Your Thermostat</h2> <p>When we had to upgrade to a new furnace (ouch!), our contractor also updated us to a programmable thermostat. By setting designated temperatures for night and day, we have definitely saved money. Plus, now I don't have to remember to adjust the temperature every night before bed.</p> <h2>9. Survey Bulbs</h2> <p>By now I think most of us are familiar with compact fluorescent bulbs as a great alternative to conventional incandescents. But did you know there are other energy efficient options like LED? A little extra money up front can mean <a href="http://www.energystar.gov/certified-products/detail/light_bulbs">up to $40 to $135 per bulb</a> over a bulb's lifetime.</p> <h2>10. Put Your Laptop to Sleep</h2> <p>Enable your computer's energy savings features, they could save you upwards of <a href="http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/energy-efficient-computer-use">$30 each year</a> on electricity costs per computer. Sounds like an insignificant amount, but it's still your money and a super simple fix.</p> <h2>11. Put a Damper on Things</h2> <p>If your home features a fireplace, be sure to close the flue when its not in use. Otherwise the outdoor air, whether hot or cold, will infiltrate your home and suck energy (to adjust your home's temperature) along with it.</p> <h2>12. Fan Yourself</h2> <p>No matter the time of year, ceiling fans can be useful for inexpensive temperature control. In the summer, run them on low to keep air flow up and air-conditioning costs down. In the winter, use the switch to reverse the blades to draw warm air down into a room from the ceiling.</p> <h2>13. Cook Smart (I)</h2> <p>Use the correct sized burners when heating up a tea kettle or dinner on the stove. For example, using a &quot;six-inch pan on an eight-inch electric burner can waste <a href="http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/residential/appliances/ranges.html">more than 40%</a> of the heat produced.&quot;</p> <h2>14. Cook Smart (II)</h2> <p>While you're at it, resist the urge to check on baked goods by opening the door, which can drop the temperature by <a href="http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/residential/appliances/ranges.html">up to 25 degrees</a>. If you need to use your appliance's self-cleaning option, try planning it after cooking a meal to use less energy heating to the highest temperatures.</p> <h2>15. Switch It Off</h2> <p>And one of the simplest ways to save money on your electric bill is to always remember to turn off lights or other electronic devices when you're leaving a room. It sounds ridiculously easy, but it can take some getting used to for the whole family. You may wish to place a reminder note at each switch as a first step in the right direction.</p> <p><em>How do you conserve energy and keep your electric bill in check? Please share in comments!</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ashley-marcin">Ashley Marcin</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-easy-ways-to-lower-your-electric-bill">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-3"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/youre-washing-your-clothes-too-often-what-to-do-instead">You&#039;re Washing Your Clothes Too Often! (What to Do Instead)</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-youre-wasting-electricity-without-realizing-it">8 Ways You&#039;re Wasting Electricity Without Realizing It</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-easy-ways-to-lower-winter-energy-costs">7 Easy Ways to Lower Winter Energy Costs</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-unexpected-moving-expenses">5 Unexpected Moving Expenses</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-monthly-bills-you-can-slash">10 Monthly Bills You Can Slash</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Budgeting Home conservation electric bill saving energy utilities Tue, 27 May 2014 08:12:24 +0000 Ashley Marcin 1140317 at http://www.wisebread.com Watch Out for These 4 Sneaky Charges on Your Monthly Bills http://www.wisebread.com/watch-out-for-these-4-sneaky-charges-on-your-monthly-bills <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/watch-out-for-these-4-sneaky-charges-on-your-monthly-bills" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/finances-175127556.jpg" alt="bills" title="bills" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Your days are undoubtedly hectic. And if you&#39;re always on the move, you may do everything fast &mdash; eat fast, drive fast, work fast, and even pay your bills fast. But while the Internet makes bill paying painless and simple, you could end up paying more than necessary for certain services. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-monthly-bills-you-can-slash?ref=seealso">10 Monthly Bills You Can Cut</a>)</p> <p>Be honest with yourself. When you receive a credit card statement or utility bill in the mail, how well do you scrutinize it? Do you check your most recent activity to ensure everything is accurate? Or do you quickly glance at the balance and pay &mdash; no questions asked?</p> <p>Just because a bill looks accurate doesn&#39;t mean that it is. Sneaky fees &mdash; regardless of how minute the amount &mdash; can creep onto monthly bills and add up to hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.</p> <p>Let&#39;s see if we can spot a few.</p> <h2>1. Modem Fee</h2> <p>If you have Internet service through your cable company, the cable company probably supplied a modem when hooking up your service. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-free-or-cheap-internet-access?ref=seealso">How to Get Cheap Internet Access</a>)</p> <p>Like many people, you may think that this modem is available at no charge for as long as you&#39;re a customer. And once upon a time, this was the case. However, many Internet companies have started charging customers a monthly modem fee, which can range anywhere from $6 to $8.</p> <p>Because cable companies don&#39;t openly advertise this new charge, you could be unknowingly paying this fee each month. Although you cannot avoid this fee if you decide to use your cable company&#39;s modem, you can purchase your own modem for as little as $50, which saves money in the long run.</p> <h2>2. Service Call Fee</h2> <p>Are you having problems with your Internet, cable,or phone connection? Your utility company or service provider may gladly come to your home to fix the issue, but it&#39;ll be at your expense, and you may discover an unexpected fee on your next billing statement. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-fees-you-need-to-stop-paying-right-now?ref=seealso">8 Fees You Need to Stop Paying Now</a>)</p> <p>Known as a service call fee, some utility providers charge customers for home visits, regardless of how big or small the problem, or whether the problem is on the utility company&#39;s end &mdash; which hardly seems fair. The rep who schedules your appointment may conveniently forget to mention this fee, at which time the service call is charged to your account.</p> <p>Anytime you call to schedule a service, inquire about fees. If the fee is ridiculously high, ask tech support to troubleshoot with you over the phone. Often, they can walk you through different options to correct the issue, and there&#39;s no charge for this service.</p> <h2>3. Paper Statement Fee</h2> <p>Although there&#39;s the option of e-statements, you may prefer paper statements. This way, you can physically touch bills as they arrive in the mail, and bills are less likely to get lost in your inbox.</p> <p>However, taking the traditional route can cost you, and if you&#39;re not checking your statements carefully, you may already be paying a fee for paper statements. This fee can be as little as $2 or $3 dollars a month, but can add up over a year. These fees are charged by banks, mortgage companies, utility companies, and cell phone companies.</p> <p>You can call your bank or utility provider and ask to have this fee removed from your bill, but they don&#39;t have to comply. To ensure you never get hit with this fee again, enroll in paperless statements and have all statements delivered to your email.</p> <h2>4. Gray Charges</h2> <p>If you don&#39;t carry a large balance on your credit cards, it&#39;s easy to detect sneaky charges that pop on your statement. But if you do have a balance, &quot;gray charges&quot; may go unnoticed, costing you hundreds. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-best-low-interest-rate-credit-cards?ref=seealso">Best Low Interest Rate Credit Cards</a>)</p> <p>These are unwanted charges that fall into a variety of categories, such as auto-renewal and memberships fees that continually show up on your credit card bills, although you cancelled the services, Then there are phantom charges, which occur when a simple online purchase results in ongoing monthly payments or a charge for a product you never requested.</p> <p>Gray charges &mdash; although sneaky &mdash; aren&#39;t always fraudulent and typically occur when card users do not read the fine print when buying items online. For example, if you agree to a two-week trial offer, the fine print may clearly state that you&#39;ll be charge a specific amount if you do not cancel within the two-week period. Additionally, if you order a so-called free credit report online, the fine print may clearly state that you&#39;ll be enrolled in credit monitoring. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-a-truly-free-credit-report?ref=seealso">How to Get a Free Credit Report</a>)</p> <p>These unwanted sneaky charges are usually 100% avoidable. Whenever you buy online, always read the terms and conditions before completing a purchase.</p> <p><em>Do you know of other sneaky charges we should look out for? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/mikey-rox">Mikey Rox</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/watch-out-for-these-4-sneaky-charges-on-your-monthly-bills">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-4"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-savings-mistakes-even-smart-people-make">8 Savings Mistakes Even Smart People Make</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/looking-at-your-expenses-with-new-eyes">Looking at Your Expenses with New Eyes</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-ways-to-win-the-war-against-this-summers-electric-bill">4 Ways to Win the War Against This Summer’s Electric Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/as-the-wood-burns-the-top-3-biomass-heating-sources-revealed">As the Wood Burns: The Top 3 BioMass Heating Sources Revealed</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-ways-to-lower-water-heater-costs">7 Ways To Lower Water Heater Costs</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Frugal Living bills fees utilities Mon, 13 Jan 2014 11:24:11 +0000 Mikey Rox 1110359 at http://www.wisebread.com Shrink Your Utility Bill by Plugging These Surprising Home Energy Leaks http://www.wisebread.com/shrink-your-utility-bill-by-plugging-these-surprising-home-energy-leaks <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/shrink-your-utility-bill-by-plugging-these-surprising-home-energy-leaks" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/chores-5318992-small.jpg" alt="washing dishes" title="washing dishes" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average family <a href="http://www.greenprintdenver.org/getinvolved/save-energy/">spends more than $1,600 annually on utility bills</a>. This breaks down to about $133 a month. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-americans-can-learn-from-how-the-rest-of-the-world-saves-energy">How The Rest of the World Saves Energy</a>)</p> <p>After a close evaluation of your utility bills, you may discover that your annual energy costs are higher than the average. There&#39;s plenty you can do to lower your costs. And while you probably know the benefits of buying Energy Star appliances and replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFL bulbs, you may be unaware of these surprising routines that drain energy and ultimately increase energy costs.</p> <h2>1. Icemaker</h2> <p>I didn&#39;t know this was possible until recently, but you can turn off the automatic icemaker on your refrigerator. Having the icemaker on is certainly&nbsp; convenient, because you don&#39;t have to fill ice trays. And if you&#39;re entertaining guests, an icemaker ensures a generous supply of ice. Yet, there&#39;s a price to convenience.</p> <p>Automatic ice machines work around the clock, constantly draining energy, and they can increase your refrigerator&#39;s energy use by 14% to 20%, says <a href="http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=refrig.pr_refrigerators">Energy Star</a>. But if you turn off your icemaker feature and make your ice the old-fashioned way (with an ice tray), that&#39;s extra cash in your pocket.</p> <p>Look for an on/off switch on the front of the icemaker, or check your manual for specific instructions.</p> <h2>2. Hand Washing vs. Dishwasher</h2> <p>Hand washing may clean your dishes better, but if you&#39;re looking for ways to conserve energy, you better learn to love your dishwasher. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-best-dishwashers">Top 5 Dishwashers</a>)</p> <p>You need hot water to clean dishes. And since it takes energy to heat water, it only makes sense that the more hot water you use, the higher your energy costs.</p> <p>Maybe you feel it&#39;s greener and more cost-effective to give your dishwasher a rest and hand wash your cups, forks, plates, etc. But at the end of the day, it&#39;s all about consumption. And since the <a href="http://www.treehugger.com/kitchen-design/built-in-dishwashers-vs-hand-washing-which-is-greener.html">average dishwasher uses only about 4 to 6 gallons of water per cycle</a>, and the average faucet outputs 2 gallons of water per minute, running your dishwasher can save time and money.</p> <h2>3. Electric Ovens</h2> <p>Large electric ovens require a lot of energy, and if you use your stove every day of the week, this will drive up your energy costs. Of course, you have to eat. If you do the math, cooking your own food is probably cheaper than grabbing a bite to eat. So even though the oven is one of the biggest energy drains in your house, you really don&#39;t have much of a choice, right? (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/19-tips-to-cut-costs-by-using-your-oven-efficiently">19 Tips for Efficient Oven Use</a>)</p> <p>Well, not exactly. There is no rule that says you have to use your oven when preparing meals. Several vegetable and meat dishes can be prepared with smaller appliances, such as a slow cooker, a microwave, or an electric grill. You can use a toaster oven for meals you would normally cook in the oven, or maybe a rice cooker or steamer for items you usually prepare on the stovetop. Switch to <a href="http://www.unitedpower.com/mainNav/yourEnergyOptions/energyTips.aspx">smaller appliances, and you can use about 75% less energy</a>.</p> <h2>4. Taking a Bath</h2> <p>Maybe you prefer a nice hot bath instead of a shower? Sure, baths take longer, considering you have to wait for the tub to fill with water. But what better way to relax and recharge after a long day? (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-easy-ways-to-have-energy-after-work">Easy Ways to Have Energy After Work</a>)</p> <p>An occasional bath isn&#39;t going to skyrocket your utility bills. However, if this becomes your nightly routine, expect your energy costs to be slightly higher than the average household.</p> <p>Just like running your dishwasher, the cost of taking a bath all boils down to water consumption and the energy it takes to heat the water. Water constantly flows while showering, and like many others, you may feel that baths use less water and energy. But when you compare the average water usage for showers and baths, the facts might comes as a surprise.</p> <p>The average bath requires <a href="http://www.consumerenergycenter.org/myths/shower_vs_bath.html">30 to 50 gallons of water</a> &mdash; a major energy drain, especially when a four-minute shower with a low-flow head only uses about 10 gallons of water. Not bad considering how a family of four can each take a quick shower and use less water than a single bath.</p> <h2>5. Empty Fridge and Freezer</h2> <p>If you grocery shop every Saturday and only buy enough for a week, you may not have a stockpile of food in your fridge or freezer. You&#39;re probably thinking&nbsp;&mdash; what does my shopping routine have to do with home energy?</p> <p>Well, there&#39;s a connection. The less you buy, the less items inside your refrigerator &mdash; and empty space doesn&#39;t exactly save energy. Emptiness provides just enough space for warm air to circulate &mdash; an energy killer.</p> <p>The temperature in your kitchen is obviously warmer than the temperature inside your refrigerator. When you open the door, warm air rushes inside; the fridge then works extra hard to maintain a cool temperature. But when you keep your fridge and freezer fully stocked, this doesn&#39;t leave much room for warm air. The cooler your fridge stays, the less energy it uses.</p> <p><em>Do you know of other surprising energy drains not listed here? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/mikey-rox">Mikey Rox</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/shrink-your-utility-bill-by-plugging-these-surprising-home-energy-leaks">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-5"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/youre-washing-your-clothes-too-often-what-to-do-instead">You&#039;re Washing Your Clothes Too Often! (What to Do Instead)</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-youre-wasting-electricity-without-realizing-it">8 Ways You&#039;re Wasting Electricity Without Realizing It</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/living-without-air-conditioning-can-save-big-bucks-this-summer">Living Without Air-Conditioning Can Save Big Bucks This Summer</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-easy-ways-to-lower-your-electric-bill">15 Easy Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-low-can-you-go-taking-the-no-heat-challenge">How Low Can You Go? Taking the No Heat Challenge</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Green Living conservation energy energy consumption utilities Thu, 24 Oct 2013 14:21:06 +0000 Mikey Rox 1044964 at http://www.wisebread.com 3 Surprising Ways to Save on Wireless Bills http://www.wisebread.com/3-surprising-ways-to-save-on-wireless-bills <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/3-surprising-ways-to-save-on-wireless-bills" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/phone-5219826-small.jpg" alt="woman using phone" title="woman using phone" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>If you&#39;ve found yourself gasping for air after opening your wireless cell phone bill lately, take a deep breath &mdash; there may be discounts you aren&#39;t taking advantage of. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/part-time-jobs-that-can-get-you-serious-discounts">Part-Time Jobs With Serious Discounts</a>)</p> <h2>1. Join Your Employer Discount Program</h2> <p>Take advantage of employer discount programs simply by contacting your wireless carrier&#39;s website (or visit their store) and submitting your work address to find out if you are eligible to receive offers and discounts. Once the email address is validated, and you qualify for the discount, you&#39;ll start saving on access charges, and in some cases, receive discounts on accessories too.</p> <p>If you are self-employed, or your current employer doesn&#39;t qualify, you can always piggyback onto a spouse&#39;s plan. And the same discounts are available to students. If you attend a university, simply submit your student email address to your provider for validation. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/big-list-of-student-discounts">List of Student Discounts</a>)</p> <p>Check discount programs for <a href="http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/support/employee-discount-email">Verizon</a>, <a href="https://www.wireless.att.com/business/authenticate/">AT&amp;T</a>, <a href="http://mysprint.sprint.com/verify/?ECID=vanity:verify">Sprint</a>, and <a href="http://support.t-mobile.com/docs/DOC-4791">T-Mobile</a>.</p> <h2>2. Make Wi-Fi Calls</h2> <p>Keep track of, and cut data usage with free apps. Jon Lal of <a href="http://www.befrugal.com/">BeFrugal</a> recommends the iTunes<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wi-fi-finder/id300708497?mt=8"> Wi-Fi Finder</a> app to locate nearby Wi-Fi hotspots, and use a Wi-Fi connection to browse online instead of your data plan whenever possible. (For Android, consider <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jiwire.android.finder&amp;hl=en">WiFi Finder</a>.) &quot;This will help you get by on a much smaller data plan that costs less.&quot; Andrea Eldridge, CEO and co-founder of <a href="http://www.callnerds.com/">Nerds on Call</a> agrees. &quot;If you&#39;re not hooked up to WiFi, those minutes can add up fast. Try to make sure you&#39;re always connected to WiFi, and turn off apps that switch to the phone network when WiFi is unavailable.&quot; (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-free-or-cheap-internet-access">How to Get Free or Cheap Internet Access</a>)</p> <h2>3. Get a &quot;Family&quot; Plan</h2> <p>Two lines (or more) are cheaper with family plans; wireless providers charge more, per person, for individual plans. This works even if your family members aren&#39;t living under one roof &mdash; or aren&#39;t related at all. As long as one person takes responsibility for the account, a group of friends can start a family plan, too.</p> <h2>The Last Word</h2> <p>Even if you don&#39;t take advantage of one of these money-saving techniques, check in from time to time with your current provider to inquire about unadvertised packages that may be a better fit for you based on your usage plan. And be sure to sign up for free alerts from your provider, just to be on the safe side, so that you are aware when you are reaching your data limit and don&#39;t have any overages.</p> <p><em>How do you save on your cell phone plan?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/linda-condrillo">Linda Condrillo</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/3-surprising-ways-to-save-on-wireless-bills">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-6"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-easy-ways-to-lower-your-electric-bill">15 Easy Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/kick-that-cell-phone-contract-save-with-a-prepaid-plan">Kick that Cell Phone Contract: Save with a Prepaid Plan</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/looking-at-your-expenses-with-new-eyes">Looking at Your Expenses with New Eyes</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/refactor-your-budget-categories">Refactor Your Budget Categories</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-mobile-phone-upgrades-that-arent-worth-the-money">4 Mobile Phone Upgrades That Aren&#039;t Worth the Money</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Budgeting cell phones data plan phone savings utilities Mon, 21 Oct 2013 10:00:03 +0000 Linda Condrillo 1034767 at http://www.wisebread.com Best Money Tips: Tips for Reducing Your Water Bill http://www.wisebread.com/best-money-tips-tips-for-reducing-your-water-bill <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/best-money-tips-tips-for-reducing-your-water-bill" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/3227330677_4857a2eb11_z-1.jpg" alt="Tips For Reducing Your Water Bill" title="Tips For Reducing Your Water Bill" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Welcome to Wise Bread's <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/topic/best-money-tips">Best Money Tips</a> Roundup! Today we found some fantastic articles on tips for reducing your water bill, banking tips for 20-somethings, and early retirement risks.</p> <h2>Top 5 Articles</h2> <p><a href="http://notmadeofmoney.com/blog/2012/08/5-quick-tips-for-reducing-your-water-bill.html">5 Quick Tips For Reducing Your Water Bill</a> &mdash; To reduce your water bill, go to the car wash. [Not Made Of Money]</p> <p><a href="http://www.savvysugar.com/Banking-Tips-20-Somethings-19936527">Helpful Banking Tips For 20-Somethings</a> &mdash; Make sure you know the fees associated with your bank accounts. [SavvySugar]</p> <p><a href="http://moneysmartlife.com/early-retirement-risks/">4 Early Retirement Risks - and How to Avoid Them</a> &mdash; Avoid making the retirement risk of outliving your money by starting to save and invest early. [Money Smart Life]</p> <p><a href="http://financialhighway.com/5-considerations-for-getting-the-most-out-of-selling-your-home/">5 Considerations for Getting the Most Out of Selling Your Home</a> &mdash; Get the most out of sellilng your home by thinking eco-friendly. [Financial Highway]</p> <p><a href="http://www.biblemoneymatters.com/packing-for-a-blog-conference/">Packing For A Blog Conference: What Gadgets, Software, Clothing And Other Things Should You Bring?</a> &mdash; If you are attending a conference, make sure to bring an envelope for receipts as well as your hotel reservation confirmation. [Bible Money Matters]</p> <h2>Other Essential Reading</h2> <p><a href="http://steadfastfinances.com/blog/2012/09/03/5-money-saving-car-maintenance-tips-and-tricks/?utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+SteadfastFinances+%28Steadfast+Finances%29">5 Money-Saving Car Maintenance Tips and Tricks</a> &mdash; Want to save money on your car? Check to make sure your tires are in tip top shape. [Steadfast Finances]</p> <p><a href="http://www.carefulcents.com/simplify-your-life-by-going-digital/">7 Ways to Simplify Your Life by Going Digital</a> &mdash; To simplify your life by going digital, enroll in automatic payments. [Careful Cents]</p> <p><a href="http://www.consumerismcommentary.com/disappearance-of-jobs-for-the-middle-class/">5 Tips for Dealing With the Job Shift Away From the Middle Class</a> &mdash; Deal with the job shift away from the middle class by getting more education. [Consumerism Commentary]</p> <p><a href="http://parentingsquad.com/guidelines-for-volunteering-at-school">8 Guidelines for Volunteering at School</a> &mdash; When volunteering at school, remember to be professional. [Parenting Squad]</p> <p><a href="http://www.doughroller.net/smart-spending/how-to-make-free-phone-calls-online/">7 Apps to Make Free Phone Calls Online</a> &mdash; Use Skype or Line2 to make free phone calls online. [The Dough Roller]</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ashley-jacobs">Ashley Jacobs</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/best-money-tips-tips-for-reducing-your-water-bill">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-7"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-youre-wasting-electricity-without-realizing-it">8 Ways You&#039;re Wasting Electricity Without Realizing It</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-easy-ways-to-lower-your-electric-bill">15 Easy Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/save-hundreds-by-getting-yourself-out-of-hot-water">Save Hundreds by Getting Yourself Out of Hot Water</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-really-easy-ways-to-unclog-drains">10 Really Easy Ways to Unclog Drains</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/20-ways-to-live-large-in-a-small-space">20 Ways to Live Large in a Small Space</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Home best money tips utilities water bill Tue, 04 Sep 2012 09:48:42 +0000 Ashley Jacobs 954150 at http://www.wisebread.com How to Make Your Own Power http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-make-your-own-power <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-to-make-your-own-power" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/windmill.jpg" alt="Windmill" title="Windmill" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Have you ever wondered how to <a href="http://www.littlehouseinthevalley.com/5-ways-to-live-greener">power your home</a>, small electronics, or a generator using natural resources? I know I have. Countless times I've forgotten to charge my cell phone and wished I had a solar powered source to trickle-charge it throughout the day. While riding my bike I've pondered how to harness my own pedal-power and charge a laptop, especially when I'm no where near an outlet. Generating your own power isn't just a lofty thought anymore; today there are a plethora of products that make it possible. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/houses-you-can-build-yourself">Houses You Can Build Yourself</a>)</p> <h2>Solar Power</h2> <p>One of the most abundant sources of energy available to us is solar power. The sun's rays <a href="http://www.briansager.com/docs/articles/Nature_Article.pdf">create more energy in one hour</a> than the entire world uses in one year. Though solar panels have gone through years of improvements, today portable solar devices such as the <a href="http://www.solio.com/">Solio</a> can charge small electronics within a few hours or help extend battery life by giving them solar-powered boosts. Larger solar chargers are also available through a few different vendors.</p> <p>Want to power your home off the sun's rays? Home solar panels can help reduce your dependence on other energy. If you produce more energy than you need, some solar systems allow you to store your energy for a cloudy day or sell it back to your utility company. Not only are you saving energy; you could be profiting off it as well.</p> <p>Many everyday items also have solar panels built right into them that can charge small electronics, like the Voltaic Solar Backpack, cell phones such as Samsung's touch-phone Blue Earth, computer keyboards and mice, calculators, outdoor lighting, and bicycles from <a href="http://www.therapyproducts.com/products_sunnybike.html">Thera-P Products</a> in Toronto to name a few.</p> <h2>Water Power</h2> <p>Much of the electricity I purchase through our utility company is created at Hoover Dam's hydroelectric plant. But did you know you can create your own hydroelectric energy if you have a constant water supply, like a lake or stream, near your house? An example of this in action is <a href="http://www.judyofthewoods.net/hydro.html">Judy of the Woods </a>in Wales. Using micro-hydro turbines, she turned her nearby springs into a source of energy.</p> <p>There are also water-powered gadgets such as clocks, calculators, or radios. However, I owned a water-powered clock a few years ago and couldn't get it to work. Maybe the newer products hold their charge better.</p> <h2>Wind Power</h2> <p>The concept of wind power via a windmill isn't new; it's been around for over 1,000 years. Yet today's personal windmills are mostly used on farms and ranches to pump water or mill grain. This doesn't have to be the case. Depending on your community's rules and regulations, you can erect your very own windmill to generate power to your home or to pump your well water. Smaller windmills can be used to aerate a pond or other stagnant water sources as well.</p> <p>The key to erecting a windmill boils down to where you live; the less dense the population, the less likely you'll have neighbors complaining about the towering structure.</p> <h2>Animal Power</h2> <p>Almost exclusively seen on farms or ranches, work horses can pump water while exercising or charge a generator by walking in a circle. Though this might not be an option for most people, animals can generate about 5-10 times the amount of energy that people do.</p> <h2>Human Power</h2> <p>Many small electronics now come in hand-crank versions: radios, flashlights, generators, even washing machines. You simply crank or squeeze the handle and the energy from your own body charges the item's batteries; it's simple and effective.</p> <p>Want your legs to do all the work? <a href="http://www.econvergence.net/electro.htm">Pedal-A-Watt</a> turns just about any bicycle into a stationery generating machine. Charge your <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/kick-that-cell-phone-contract-save-with-a-prepaid-plan">cell phone</a>, laptop, or iPod while pedaling, or connect it to a PowerPak for later use. You can even find plans on the web to <a href="http://www.pedalpowergenerator.com/#FREE">build your own pedal-powered generator</a>.</p> <p>Charging my cell phone or laptop on the road no longer seems as baffling as it once did since I can choose from various clean, self-powered energy sources.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/little-house">Little House</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-make-your-own-power">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-8"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-youre-wasting-electricity-without-realizing-it">8 Ways You&#039;re Wasting Electricity Without Realizing It</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/hands-in-your-pocket-the-cost-of-standby-power-environmental-and-otherwise">Hands in Your Pocket: The Cost of Standby Power - Environmental and Otherwise</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-turn-a-2-liter-bottle-of-water-into-a-50-watt-lightbulb">How To Turn a 2-liter Bottle Of Water Into a 50-Watt Lightbulb</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-americans-can-learn-from-how-the-rest-of-the-world-saves-energy">What Americans Can Learn From How the Rest of the World Saves Energy</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/homemade-deodorant-is-it-worth-it">Homemade Deodorant: Is It Worth It?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> DIY electricity make your own power solar power utilities Thu, 11 Aug 2011 10:24:21 +0000 Little House 655757 at http://www.wisebread.com Save Hundreds by Getting Yourself Out of Hot Water http://www.wisebread.com/save-hundreds-by-getting-yourself-out-of-hot-water <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/save-hundreds-by-getting-yourself-out-of-hot-water" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/3406535350_33fb5d6216.jpg" alt="inside washer" title="inside washer" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>An average household spends about $300 a year on hot water &mdash; about 12% of a family&rsquo;s total annual energy budget. But if you have family members who take long showers and generate loads of dirty laundry, that expense could easily double. If hot water expenses are putting the family finances in hot water, it&rsquo;s time to make some changes. The good news is that if everybody pitches in with some minor behavior alteration, water-heating expenses will definitely diminish.</p> <h3>1. Find a Better Way to Start the Day</h3> <p>Raise your hand if you use the shower to wake up every morning. If you don&rsquo;t need a shower to get clean, there are better ways to get your body going in the morning &mdash; like taking a few minutes to stretch or do light exercises, for example. This new wake-up regimen will save you time and money, and it could even help you lose weight and get in better shape.&nbsp;</p> <h3>2. Try Sponge Baths</h3> <p>If exercise or other activities make you feel like you need a shower, consider a quick, targeted wipe-down instead. This isn&rsquo;t always the answer, but you&rsquo;ll be surprised at how effectively some speedy sponge work can get you clean. Saving time and money is good motivation for making this change.</p> <h3>3. Start Singing in the Shower</h3> <p>By the time you finish belting out one of your favorite songs (in 3-6 minutes or so), you should be just about done washing up. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Shaving in the shower takes more time, for example. But for your basic shower, sticking to the single-song rule will add up in savings.&nbsp;</p> <h3>4. Upgrade Your Showerhead</h3> <p>A low-flow showerhead uses 30% less water than a conventional version. Don&rsquo;t let the &ldquo;low-flow&rdquo; label on these showerheads get you down. The best water-saving showerheads produce an invigorating blast while delivering just 1.5 gal. per minute or so. They do this by blending air into the water stream and using pulsing technology. For maximum savings, buy a showerhead with a built-in valve that shuts off the water flow while you soap up.</p> <h3>5. Clean Up at the Club</h3> <p>Are you paying for a health club membership without enjoying all the benefits? If you belong to a health club that has showers, shower more at the club so you can shower less at home.</p> <h3>6. Rinse and Reuse</h3> <p>Ever notice how many different coffee cups get used over the course of the day? Instead of filling up the dishwasher with multiple cups and glasses, try rinsing a single glass or coffee cup out when you&rsquo;re finished and simply reusing it later. Combine this rinse-and-reuse strategy with the practice of doing full rather than partial loads in your dishwasher, and you&rsquo;ll maximize your savings.</p> <h3>7. Give Your Clothes the Cold Treatment</h3> <p>About 85% of the energy consumed by your washing machine goes into heating water. If you do lots of laundry, you&rsquo;re looking at major savings potential here. Switch to a detergent designed for cold water and use the &ldquo;cold/cold&rdquo; setting on your machine.</p> <h3>8. Call in a Pro</h3> <p>Even the most frugal hot-water habits can&rsquo;t compensate for the extra money an inefficient hot water heater is going to cost you. If your water heater is more than 10 years old, it&rsquo;s worth considering an upgrade to a new Energy Star model. If you have a tank-type water heater (the most common variety), a full-service plumber can assess the condition of this appliance and help you weigh the pros and cons of replacement. Less costly energy-saving upgrades include insulating your existing water heater, insulating hot water pipes, and simply turning the temperature setting down to 120 degrees or even lower. On most electric tank-type water heaters, you&rsquo;ll find the temperature setting dial beneath a metal cover plate on the side of the tank. The &ldquo;factory&rdquo; setting of 140 degrees uses more energy than necessary.</p> <p><em>For more ideas, check out Wise Bread's </em><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-ways-to-lower-water-heater-costs"><em>7 Ways to Lower Water Heater Costs</em></a><em>.</em></p> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-guestpost-blurb"> <div class="field-label">Guest Post Blurb:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This is a guest post by Tim Snyder. A journalist specializing in sustainability, energy efficiency, and home building topics, Tim writes frequently for <a href="http://www.drenergysaver.com/">Dr. Energy Saver</a>, a nationwide network of energy improvement contractors. Read more about saving energy on Dr. Energy Saver:</p> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.drenergysaver.com/blog/2010/10/how-good-is-burning-wood/">How Good Is Burning Wood?</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.drenergysaver.com/blog/2010/09/lessons-from-count-rumford/">Lessons from Count Rumford</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.drenergysaver.com/blog/2010/08/the-greenest-insulation/">The Greenest Insulation</a></li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/tim-snyder">Tim Snyder</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/save-hundreds-by-getting-yourself-out-of-hot-water">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-9"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-youre-wasting-electricity-without-realizing-it">8 Ways You&#039;re Wasting Electricity Without Realizing It</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-easy-ways-to-lower-your-electric-bill">15 Easy Ways to Lower Your Electric Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/landscaping-for-energy-conservation">Landscaping for Energy Conservation</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/xeriscaping-to-promote-water-conservation">Xeriscaping to Promote Water Conservation</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-really-easy-ways-to-unclog-drains">10 Really Easy Ways to Unclog Drains</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Home conserve water energy costs hot water utilities water heater Tue, 11 Jan 2011 13:00:09 +0000 Tim Snyder 301975 at http://www.wisebread.com Book Review: Off the Grid http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-off-the-grid <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/book-review-off-the-grid" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/off-the-grid-cover.jpg" alt="Cover of Off the Grid by Nick Rosen" title="Cover of Off the Grid by Nick Rosen" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="199" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0143117386?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=wisbre08-20&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=0143117386"><em>Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America</em></a> by Nick Rosen.</p> <p>I've always used the term &quot;off the grid&quot; in a literal sense to refer to houses that aren't connected to the electric, gas, water, or telephone systems. When Nick Rosen uses the word &quot;grid&quot; he means more than that &mdash; something closer to what the 1960s counterculture types meant when they talked about <em>the system</em> or <em>the machine</em>.</p> <p>The book is fascinating. It's not at all a how-to manual. It's more an anthropological study of people who chose to live off the grid, together with some history of the grid itself.</p> <p>In the history, Rosen makes no attempt to present a balanced view. To him, the history of the grid is largely a history of corruption and cronyism; a history of monied interests using government influence (and often violence) to seize what belonged to ordinary people.</p> <p>In looking at the ordinary people who &mdash; for a myriad different reasons &mdash; have chosen to make their homes off the grid, though, Rosen shines.</p> <p>People choose to live off the grid for many reasons &mdash; several of which echo concerns that I've heard many times from Wise Bread commenters:</p> <ul> <li>Some want to own land, and land on the grid is too expensive.</li> <li>Some want to live very cheaply and would rather make do than pay the monthly bills for gas, power, water, etc.</li> <li>Some are so wealthy they can choose not to depend on polluting sources of power, building homes that are self-sufficient on solar and wind power.</li> <li>Some fear society is about to collapse and want to be self-sufficient when the grid goes down.</li> <li>Some fear the government and want to keep off its radar.</li> <li>Some hate the government and choose not to be complicit in its misdeeds.</li> </ul> <p>The book is a gentle, often almost loving look at individuals with all these motivations (and others). Rosen talks to (and often spends a night or two at the homes of) all manner of people: rich folks, their caretakers, poor folks, right-wing wackos, left-wing kooks, homeless people living in their cars, pot farmers, their neighbors, and ordinary, sane Americans who just want to live as best they can according to their own values.</p> <p>Having said that, Rosen does seem to have some odd reactions. He always notes whether the people he's interacting with are good-looking or not &mdash; and somehow the good-looking ones seem much more likely to come across as sensible, reasonable people. Perhaps related to that, his overall sense of his subjects' reasonableness is sometimes quite at odds with my own &mdash; but in a way that does no harm, because he clearly makes an effort to lay out their stories in a plain fashion before he presents his conclusion, leaving the reader free to draw his or her own.</p> <p>I was particularly interested in Rosen's take on Eustace Conway (having previously read Elizabeth Gilbert's book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0142002836?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=wisbre08-20&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=0142002836 "><em>The Last American Man</em></a>, which is about Conway, the noted naturalist and self-sufficiency educator) and was pleased to learn that Conway has come to have more nuanced views on community sufficiency versus self-sufficiency.</p> <p>The scope of the book is broad enough that anyone with an interest in self-sufficiency or self-reliance will find things of interest. As I said, this book is not a how-to guide. Don't expect to learn how to size a solar power system or how to hook up a 12-volt inverter. But do expect to come away with a new appreciation for the many ways to live <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0143117386?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=wisbre08-20&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=0143117386"><em>Off the Grid</em></a>.</p> <p><em>Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, and I will earn a commission for any purchase made through these links.</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/philip-brewer">Philip Brewer</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-off-the-grid">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-10"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/chinese-money-habits-how-my-culture-influences-my-attitudes-toward-money">Chinese Money Habits - How My Culture Influences My Attitudes Toward Money</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/mcmansion-to-mccottage-why-smaller-houses-are-smarter">McMansion to McCottage: Why Smaller Houses Are Smarter</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/mind-blowing-tiny-houses-with-huge-design-inspiration">Mind-Blowing Tiny Houses With Huge Design Inspiration</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-the-cheapskate-next-door-the-surprising-secrets-of-americans-living-happily-below-their-">Book Review - The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-benefits-of-having-a-roommate-besides-saving-on-rent">The Benefits of Having a Roommate (Besides Saving on Rent)</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Lifestyle Real Estate and Housing book review off grid off the grid utilities Thu, 16 Dec 2010 13:00:13 +0000 Philip Brewer 387795 at http://www.wisebread.com How Low Can You Go? Taking the No Heat Challenge http://www.wisebread.com/how-low-can-you-go-taking-the-no-heat-challenge <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/how-low-can-you-go-taking-the-no-heat-challenge" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000009492109XSmall.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Last fall, <a href="http://thenonconsumeradvocate.com/">The Non-Consumer Advocate</a> turned me on to the <a href="http://thenonconsumeradvocate.com/2009/09/no-heat-challenge/">No-Heat Challenge</a>. The dare was to keep your heat off until November 1. Fine for her, I thought, she lives in Portland. I made it to the first snowfall, which for us was the second weekend in October. No way I'm sitting in an unheated house through a snowstorm, I thought. No one would do that.</p> <p>But this week, the New York Times has a story on people who live here in my frigid climate and do not heat their homes. At all. One guy, an artist who lives in his working loft in New York City, has not heated his living space in over thirty years.</p> <p>I am stunned. I spent my early childhood in Arizona, and when we moved to Buffalo I took my mother's admonitions that I would freeze to death in that weather literally. The idea that people &mdash; people with jobs and homes and professional lives and the means to make other choices &mdash; choose to live without heat is totally new to me.</p> <p>The combination of the recession and increasing awareness of global warning has a lot of people looking to cool things down in their own homes this winter. I'd bet most of us aren't ready to give up home heating altogether, but here are a few tricks we can learn from the hardcore heat resisters.</p> <h3>Chill out</h3> <p>Try turning back the thermostat two degrees from your normal setting. Still comfortable? Try turning it down two more. When you hit your personal &quot;too cold&quot; threshold, you can notch back up a bit. You might be surprised how cool you're comfortable keeping your house.</p> <h3>Get a programmable thermostat</h3> <p>These inexpensive devices let you automatically set the heat lower at night and during the day when you're away at work or school. Using one lets you save your heating dollars for the times when you're home and awake, so you get the most bang for the bucks your furnace burns.</p> <h3>Layer up</h3> <p>Wearing a t-shirt indoors while it's sub-zero outside is a luxury whose time has passed. Wear long underwear, warm clothes, wool socks, and sweaters. Don't be afraid to wear a hat indoors, or fingerless gloves. With the right layers, your body heat can do a lot of the work your furnace has been doing, for free.</p> <h3>Add a layer to the house, too</h3> <p>If you haven't insulated your walls yet, now is the time to consider it. We had insulation blown into the walls of our century old house last winter, and our heating bills dropped immediately.</p> <h3>Seal the gaps</h3> <p>It's tedious, but putting plastic over your windows and any drafts in the walls will help keep your home cozy and your heating bills low.</p> <h3>Think small</h3> <p>Do you have a spare bedroom you don't need to be heating all winter? A workshop that could just be warmed with a space heater once in awhile? My house has a huge hallway with two staircases that people walk through but don't spend time in. There's no reason to heat it as warmly as we do the rest of the house.</p> <p>What adjustments have you made to your home heating strategies this winter? Are you just cranking up the heat as usual, or have you been looking for ways to cut back? Share your tips in the comments.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/sierra-black">Sierra Black</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-low-can-you-go-taking-the-no-heat-challenge">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-11"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-ways-youre-wasting-electricity-without-realizing-it">8 Ways You&#039;re Wasting Electricity Without Realizing It</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-ways-to-win-the-war-against-this-summers-electric-bill">4 Ways to Win the War Against This Summer’s Electric Bill</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/shrink-your-utility-bill-by-plugging-these-surprising-home-energy-leaks">Shrink Your Utility Bill by Plugging These Surprising Home Energy Leaks</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-wonderful-uses-for-witch-hazel">15 Wonderful Uses for Witch Hazel</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-cheap-and-easy-homemade-mosquito-repellents">4 Cheap and Easy Homemade Mosquito Repellents</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Green Living heating costs no-heat challenge utilities Wed, 27 Jan 2010 15:00:02 +0000 Sierra Black 4866 at http://www.wisebread.com 4 Ways to Win the War Against This Summer’s Electric Bill http://www.wisebread.com/4-ways-to-win-the-war-against-this-summers-electric-bill <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/4-ways-to-win-the-war-against-this-summers-electric-bill" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/electric bill.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="156" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal">Energy increases are common this time of year, and with many families already struggling to pay the utility bills, it can seem more burdensome than ever.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>There&rsquo;s no one-size-fits-all method to kicking your increase to the curb, but these four tips are sure to put a sizeable dent in next month&rsquo;s &ldquo;total amount due.&rdquo;<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><b style="">Avoid the A/C</b> &ndash; Yes, I said it.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>I wasn&rsquo;t too popular when my first Wise Bread post <a href="../../../../../../living-without-air-conditioning-can-save-big-bucks-this-summer">suggested that consumers leave it out of their summer routine</a>, but no one can deny the negative energy impact (and wallet distress) that the window A/C or whole-home cooling unit can bring.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>If you&rsquo;ve managed to make it this far into the season without turning it on, <a href="../../../../../../living-without-air-conditioning-can-save-big-bucks-this-summer">read my tips</a> for keeping it off a bit longer.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>If you&rsquo;ve already turned it on for the year and are rethinking that payout of $40-180 a month for cold air, there&rsquo;s still time to make some adjustments to your routine.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>It&rsquo;s not for everyone (especially those in certain climates and at risk for health complications), but many of us grew up without air-conditioning.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>We can probably get by without it in a pinch, and for those who are finding it hard to put food on the table, it&rsquo;s a decision that should be seriously considered<o:p>.</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><b style="">Attack the other Major Offenders</b> &ndash; With the air-conditioning issue already addressed, you can look forward to systematically tackling the other energy suckers in your home.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Common ones include electric clothes dryers, electric stoves, and your water heater.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>While no one is suggesting that you quit using them altogether, adjustments can be made to positively affect that utility bill, and many of these habits are complimentary to warmer weather behavior.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Some things I do specifically in the higher-rate months include:<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <ul> <li>Replace my electric clothes dryer with a <a href="http://www.laundry-alternative.com/products/Spin_Dryer.html">Spin Dryer</a> and a clothes line. (I&rsquo;m still mastering the art of this, and crunchy towels are common.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>I love the &gt;$15 a month in savings, however, and my clothes are lasting much longer!)</li> <li><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p>Skip the stove.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>If I can&rsquo;t BBQ outside (which is a flavor-enhancing summer hobby I love, anyway), <a href="../../../../../../4-sort-of-small-kitchen-gadgets-that-equal-big-savings">I choose the crock pot</a>, instead.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Slow-cooking is a delicious way to make cheaper meats more flavorful, and clean up is a breeze.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>(My kitchen doesn&rsquo;t get as hot, either, allowing me to keep my A/C off even longer!)<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></li> <li>Wash clothes on cold.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>My &ldquo;green&rdquo; friends are doing this anyway, and with the exception of truly mucky farm clothes, we find it to be just as effective as washing with warm.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>By keeping showers brief and letting my dishwasher handle my cleanup (with a shorter cycle), I&rsquo;m using my hot water heater much less.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>(Those of you with &ldquo;time of use&rdquo; rates might want to consider <a href="http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13110">putting your water heater on a timer</a>, so that you&rsquo;re heating your water when it is cheapest.)<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></li> <li>Using power strips with smart controls.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>It&rsquo;s not enough to have a power strip plugged in if you&rsquo;re too lazy to turn it off.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>My power strips all have master outlets that control the others.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>(When my PC is off, for example, the printer, speakers, and fax machine turn off, too!)<span style="">&nbsp; </span><a href="../../../../../../the-lazy-environmentalist-teaches-us-to-be-green-with-little-to-no-effort">The Lazy Environmentalist</a>, Josh Dorfman, recently told me about remote-controlled power strips.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>They might be worth checking out!<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></li> </ul> <p class="MsoNormal"><i style="">For additional information on some of the gadgets you can use to identify the energy wasters in your home, see my <a href="http://www.tomsguide.com/us/energy-killawatt-pharox,review-1197.html">Green Your Home with Tech: Electricity</a> over at Tom&rsquo;s Guide.</i><span style="">&nbsp;</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><b style="">Pay Your Bill On Time</b> &ndash; This one should be a no-brainer, but it amazes me how close I come to the due date every month!<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Because my electric bill is one of my most expensive home costs, and my utility company is the only bill that doesn&rsquo;t offer an online payment method, I find that it almost slips my mind each month. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>Late charges will vary by provider:<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Some charge only a percentage of your bill, others can slap on a $15 fee or higher.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Because electricity is something you can&rsquo;t do without, it&rsquo;s easier to pay that fee than to argue &ndash; so be sure you get that bill paid on time!<span style="">&nbsp; </span>(Many utility companies offer level payment plans, so look into this if you find that it&rsquo;s harder to pay during certain months of the year, or check into non-profit assistance programs in your area.)<b style=""><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></b></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><b style="">Bribe the Kids</b> &ndash; I admit to motivating my kids with money from time to time.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Since I pay the electric bill, it pains me to see lights left on, the TV buzzing in an empty room, and an unattended dryer lint trap.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>It does me no good to run around the home and trying to undo all the wastefulness of my children, so why not have them see what I see?<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Currently, my husband has offered my daughter 20 cents on every dollar of savings over last month&rsquo;s electric bill.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>She is VERY excited about the opportunity, and I see her dutifully turning off lights and appliances around the house each day.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Sure, I could pocket all the savings for myself, but would there be much to save if I had to do it alone?<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Tackling the electric bill is a high-priority in many homes this year.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>I have just experienced a 7% rate increase, and there&rsquo;s speculation of more straining energy costs in the near future.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Take some time to learn about your energy use, make some adjustments, and keep doing what works.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>You really only need electricity when you&rsquo;re using it&hellip; so be diligent about conserving it when you&rsquo;re not.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/linsey-knerl">Linsey Knerl</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-ways-to-win-the-war-against-this-summers-electric-bill">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-12"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-savings-mistakes-even-smart-people-make">8 Savings Mistakes Even Smart People Make</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/oprah-asks-a-great-question-what-can-you-live-without">Oprah Asks A Great Question; What Can You Live Without?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/welcome-to-container-city-how-shipping-containers-are-recycled-into-green-dwellings">Welcome to Container City - How Shipping Containers Are Recycled into Green Dwellings</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/is-the-courtesy-flush-dead">Is the courtesy flush dead?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-big-of-a-house-do-you-really-need">How Big of a House Do You Really Need?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Frugal Living Green Living Lifestyle air-conditioning cooling electric bill savings utilities Mon, 15 Jun 2009 17:24:52 +0000 Linsey Knerl 3268 at http://www.wisebread.com Looking at Your Expenses with New Eyes http://www.wisebread.com/looking-at-your-expenses-with-new-eyes <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/looking-at-your-expenses-with-new-eyes" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/2548505837_6453ceda04_m.jpg" alt="cable box and remote" title="Comcast cable stuff" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="240" height="180" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p> <meta http-equiv="CONTENT-TYPE" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" /><br /> <title></title><br /> <meta name="GENERATOR" content="OpenOffice.org 2.4 (Win32)" /></p> <style type="text/css"> <!-- @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } --><!-- @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } --> </style></p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">A lot of people think that banks have high security, but the most fortified brick-and-mortar institution in my town is the local Comcast office. This is where you have to go to drop off broken cable boxes or pay your bill if it's late and you don't want your service turned off. The clerks work behind a thick shield of bullet-proof glass, and there are two-sided, bullet-proof boxes at every station for transferring equipment. Surveillance cameras are placed in the corners of the room, and a large poster by the door makes it easy to estimate your height as you leave the building with that bag of loot.</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">One day, after a couple of visits, I finally asked why there was so much security. I was told that the office takes in ridiculous amounts of cash each day. Enough to make it a more attractive target than many gas stations and convenience stores. Why so much? Well, to understand that, you have to spend some time waiting in line. If you watch carefully, at least fifty percent of the people in line ahead of you will be there for two purposes. One, to pay their overdue cable bill in cash, and two, to argue with the clerk about some aspect of the bill that they find unfair. For this reason, it's a good idea to go to there when you're in the mood for people-watching, as opposed to running late for something important.</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">Cable television isn't a life necessity. There's no bullet proof glass (as far as I know) at the local supermarket where you can pay your heating bill in cash at the last minute. But apparently people are willing to spend their last dollar on cable. As a case in point, last time I was at the Comcast office, dropping off a spare second cable box that no one was using anymore, a gentleman in front of me in line went to the window and offered to pay $150 in cash on his past due account, which was $495. That brought his balance down to $345. He then asked what his charges would be for his next bill. &ldquo;You have $345 outstanding,&rdquo; the clerk said.</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">&ldquo;No, I just want to know what the new charges will be on the next bill,&rdquo; he answered</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">&ldquo;One hundred ninety-five,&rdquo; she told him. He nodded, put away his receipt, and left.</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">This seems incredible to me. Obviously he can't afford $195/month for cable, or he wouldn't be so far behind on his charges. What kind of service even costs that much? Is there a cable package that cleans your house and polishes your silver while you watch? And he couldn't even pay the equivalent of one month's charges after running up a $500 tab. He paid just enough to keep the cable turned on for another month, but anyone with eyes could see this was a terrible financial choice he was making.</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">I'm not real comfortable making judgments on other people when I don't know the whole story, so I got to thinking. What are my blind spots? What do I maybe spend $200/month on that others would consider excessive? Chances are my overall family budget is greater than his, and includes luxuries that he would find excessive. Maybe he would think my pets are a waste of money. Maybe he would disapprove of my habit of driving decent cars and eating organic foods. Maybe he would frown on my SUV. (A lot of people would, but you try taking two mastiffs on vacation in a Toyota hatchback.) The truth is, if someone were standing behind me, watching me make all of my purchases, I would probably squirm a bit.</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">So, for me, there are two take-home lessons here. One is that entertainment in the form of cable television is very important to some people, to the point that they will take the last of their grocery money to the local Comcast office at the end of the month, instead of using it on groceries. We should all respect a force of nature this powerful. Second, that managing your money is always subject to personal priorities, and those priorities vary between individuals. Maybe the mythical $4 latte is really worth $4 to someone who really treasures that Starbucks run each morning. Maybe it is the one thing keeping him sane. The real question is do we know what our priorities are and how much they are costing us? What would our choices look like if they were examined with fresh eyes?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/catherine-shaffer">Catherine Shaffer</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/looking-at-your-expenses-with-new-eyes">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-13"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-savings-mistakes-even-smart-people-make">8 Savings Mistakes Even Smart People Make</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/will-a-dental-discount-plan-save-you-money">Will A Dental Discount Plan Save You Money?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/is-six-figures-really-that-much">Is Six Figures Really That Much?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/wisdom-from-my-favorite-frugal-tv-character-julius-rock">Wisdom from My Favorite Frugal TV Character - Julius Rock</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/marketing-messes-with-your-head">Marketing Messes With Your Head</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Frugal Living Budgeting cable television utilities Wed, 18 Feb 2009 15:41:18 +0000 Catherine Shaffer 2851 at http://www.wisebread.com Refactor Your Budget Categories http://www.wisebread.com/refactor-your-budget-categories <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/refactor-your-budget-categories" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/finances-5269337-small.jpg" alt="budgeting" title="budgeting" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>There are a lot of budget templates out there. Any will serve the purpose, and if you've got one that's working for you, that's a good enough reason to stick with it. If you don't have a budget, though, or if you're going to be changing your budget categories around for some other reason, I've got some thoughts on what makes a good category. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-tips-for-improving-or-starting-a-budget">8 Tips for Improving or Starting a Budget</a>)</p> <p>My own thinking in this area dates back some 15 years, to when I was setting up spending categories in Quicken. The software came with some default categories, but I found they didn't suit me. I was reminded of this just recently, when (working on another post) I was looking through the <a href="http://www.bls.gov/">Bureau of Labor Statistics</a> document that lists the <a href="http://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpiri2007.pdf">relative weights of various categories of spending</a>. I was intrigued to find that <em>their</em> categories look a rather lot like <em>mine</em>.</p> <h2>My Categories</h2> <p>When I was designing the structure of my categories, the first change I had to make was to get rid of a top-level category for insurance. Instead, I put insurance expenses where they belong: auto insurance under transportation, health insurance under medical, and homeowner/renter insurance under housing.</p> <p>I also eliminated a top-level category for utilities. I put the power bill under housing. (I'd put heat, water, garbage, sewer, etc. there too, but those items are included in the rent where I live right now.) I put the cell phone and internet charges in a new top-level category for communications, and put postage there as well.</p> <p>In addition to putting car insurance under transportation, I made sure to put all my smaller transportation expenses there as well &mdash; not only fuel and car maintenance, but also bus tokens and bicycle maintenance. Having them all right together makes sure that I know just how much owning a car really costs compared to the alternatives. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-cut-car-ownership-costs">How to Cut Car Ownership Costs</a>)</p> <h2>Categories Matter</h2> <p>Budget categories are important &mdash; they can either illuminate or obscure our spending choices. For example, does the fitness center membership go under entertainment, or under medical? You can make a case for either. Your choice is driven by your values, and by your view of how the world works. But be aware that it will influence your future behavior. (For example, suppose you decide to cut your spending and start by looking for something to trim from the entertainment budget. Is the fitness center membership there, or safely tucked away under medical?) (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-trick-yourself-into-better-credit-card-behavior">How to Trick Yourself Into Better Credit Card Behavior</a>)</p> <p>As I said, the Bureau of Labor Statistics categories turn out to look a lot like the categories that I used. In particular, they put both insurance and utilities in almost exactly the same categories where I put them, except that they had a merged top-level category for &quot;education and communication&quot; which does include phone, internet, and postage &mdash; but also has tuition, text books, child care, and nursery school.</p> <p>Because our categories match up so well, it was easy for me to see how my spending compared to the average consumer. That's not an <em>important</em> comparison &mdash; my spending is influence by my own values, so there's no particular reason that it would look especially like that of the average consumer &mdash; but for me it was an <em>interesting</em> comparison. For example, because we live in a cheap apartment, our housing budget is a much smaller fraction of our total budget than the average consumer's. Our spending on food, clothes, and entertainment, though, is roughly in line with the average consumer. My budget line-item for medical is hugely higher than average, because I'm about to go out and (try to) buy my own medical insurance, instead of getting it as an employee benefit.</p> <p>Looking at the BLS categories would be especially useful if you're creating your first budget, in that it's going to have lots of categories that you probably wouldn't think of. Many of those categories will come in at zero and should just be left out. (We don't have a line item for &quot;renting and repairing medical equipment&quot; or for &quot;moving, storage, and freight.&quot;) But it's a useful memory-jogger to see the long list of categories and think, &quot;Oh, yeah, we do need to budget a little something for new sheets and towels.&quot; The average urban consumer, for example, allocates 0.555% of the budget to &quot;Club dues and fees for participant sports and group exercises.&quot; If you do yoga or aerobics or tai chi or belong to a softball league, you'll want to have the expense as an item on your budget.</p> <p>As I say, if your budget is working for you, there's probably no good reason to change it. But if you're changing your categories anyway for reasons of your own (or making a new budget), you could do much worse than basing your categories on <a href="http://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpiri2007.pdf">those used by the BLS</a>.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/philip-brewer">Philip Brewer</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/refactor-your-budget-categories">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-14"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/simplify-budgeting-with-personal-money">Simplify budgeting with personal money</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/budgeting-for-the-rest-of-us-or-how-to-follow-a-budget-without-breaking-down-in-tears">Budgeting for the rest of us, or How to follow a budget without breaking down in tears</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/debt-repayment-is-not-an-expense">Debt repayment is not an expense</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/plan-for-your-wants">Plan for your wants</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/too-broke-to-be-frugal">Too broke to be frugal?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Budgeting budget budgeting medical transportation utilities Sat, 17 May 2008 16:02:28 +0000 Philip Brewer 2099 at http://www.wisebread.com Manage your fixed expenses http://www.wisebread.com/manage-your-fixed-expenses <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/manage-your-fixed-expenses" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/gas-meters.jpg" alt="Gas meters" title="Gas Meters" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="151" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When you think of people ruining their lives with foolish spending, it's easy to focus on the little things that add up--the meals out, the hefty bar tab, the daily Starbucks habit, and the retail therapy (whether for new clothes, new shoes, or the latest must-have electronic gizmo). The fact is, though, that these expenses (although they can make it tough to save for the future) are not the ones that ruin people's lives. It's the fixed expenses that do that.</p> <p>By fixed expenses, I mean any kind of expense that you can't immediately adjust if your economic situation changes. For example, the property taxes that you owe stay about the same even if your income drops--fixed expense. Your income taxes, on the other hand, fall automatically if your income drops--variable expense.</p> <h2>Typical fixed expenses</h2> <p>Most of your biggest budget categories (except for groceries) probably go to various sorts of fixed expenses:</p> <ul> <li>Debt payments: mortgage, student loan, car payment, consumer debt...</li> <li>Lease payments: apartment, car, self-storage unit...</li> <li>Services contracts: cell phone service, burglar alarm service, lawn care service, fitness center membership...</li> <li>Municipal fees: water, garbage, sewer...</li> <li>Insurance: home, auto, health...</li> </ul> <h2>Relatively fixed</h2> <p>There are other expenses that, even if they're not actually fixed, are <strong>relatively</strong> fixed in the sense that you'd have to completely change your life or abandon something of considerable value in order to quit paying the money. Tuition, for example falls into this category--you could quit paying next semester, but doing so would mean abandoning your degree. For many people, child care is another example--eliminating that expense involves deciding that one parent will be out of the money economy for an extended period.</p> <p>Also in this category are &quot;circumstantial&quot; expenses, such as a large monthly outlay for gasoline that could be changed, but only with some sort of major lifestyle change: a new job closer to home, a new home closer to work, or a some change in how the commute is handled (carpooling, using mass transit, bicycling to work, a more fuel-efficient vehicle).</p> <p>Utility bills are often thought of as fixed, but some could be turned off in an emergency, and some of the rest can be reduced simply by using less of whatever the service is.</p> <h2>Good times versus bad</h2> <p>It's very easy to convince yourself to accept high fixed expenses. Something that you'd be able to afford someday (a big house, an expensive car, a big-screen TV) can be had <strong>now</strong>--and the extra cost may be perfectly reasonable.</p> <p>For example, suppose you want a $1400 big-screen TV. You could save $114 a month in a high-interest savings account paying 5% and be able to afford it a year from now. On the other hand, if you borrowed the money at 12% and paid it off over the course of a year, you'd have to make monthly payments of $124. That extra $10 a month can seem very reasonable, if you think of it as what you're paying to have a big-screen TV for a year. And, after all, at the end of the year you've got a big-screen TV either way.</p> <p>This sort of thinking, which does only modest harm during good times, is absolutely ruinous during bad times. A two-income family that suddenly has to get by on one income will succeed or fail entirely on the basis of its fixed expenses. If the fixed expenses are low enough that one income can cover them with enough left over for food, then everything will probably be fine. If not, the family sinks inexorably into debt.</p> <h2>The upside of bad times</h2> <p>In good times, it's very easy to feel like high fixed expenses are unavoidable. Many thrifty people spent years trying to save up enough money for a down payment on a house, only to have home prices rise even faster than they could save. They can be forgiven for thinking that they had no choice but to overextend themselves if they ever wanted to buy a house.</p> <p>In bad times, that logic is largely reversed. Deciding to stay in an apartment for another year or two and save up a larger down payment will probably translate into more options, a nicer house, smaller payments, and a lower total cost. This is hard for someone trying to sell a house, but very nice for someone with low fixed costs.</p> <h2>Fixed cost illusion</h2> <p>It's easy to feel that you simply have to accept your fixed costs. They are, after all, fixed. This thinking is a mistake. Any of your fixed costs can be changed. Some of the changes require a long lead time. Others may entail some expense. Others can be changed cheaply, but only if you're willing to accept a changed (often reduced) lifestyle.</p> <p>During good times, it's often possible to &quot;grow into&quot; high fixed expenses. A year or two of tight budgets and slightly precarious finances can--after a raise or two, after some consumer debt is paid down--leave one in a pretty comfortable situation. When bad times threaten, though, that strategy leads to disaster.</p> <p>I don't know what direction things are going for the economy, but I think the risks are high enough that it's worth aggressively managing your fixed expenses:</p> <ol> <li><strong>Know what your fixed expenses are.</strong> If your budget has some fixed and variable expenses lumped together into the same category, break them out separately.</li> <li><strong>Know how long they're fixed for.</strong> Know when your cell phone contract expires. Know when your lease is up. Jot the dates down on your budget.</li> <li><strong>Make a plan for reducing them.</strong> The debt fraction can be reduced simply by paying down some debts, but consider more drastic changes. Consider moving to a cheaper place when your lease is up. Consider selling a car. Sell enough stuff that you don't need a self-storage unit. Save up enough cash that you can safely raise the deductible on your car insurance.</li> <li><strong>Create some contingency plans.</strong> What will you do if you lose your job? What will you do if your spouse loses his or hers? What will you do if the price of gasoline doubles, heating costs triple, and food costs just keep going up?</li> </ol> <p>Contingency plan creation has a double purpose. Not only are they useful to have in case some particular misfortune comes to pass, they can provide some incentive to go back and put some oomph into your plan to reduce your fixed expenses.</p> <p>Those little expenses that add up to keep you from paying down debt and saving for the future are a problem in the long term, but they don't lead to people being broke, homeless, or in bankruptcy. It's the fixed expenses that do that. Manage your fixed expenses, and you can ride out the bad times--and can safely indulge in some of those little variable expenses that give real pleasure.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/philip-brewer">Philip Brewer</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/manage-your-fixed-expenses">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-15"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-savings-mistakes-even-smart-people-make">8 Savings Mistakes Even Smart People Make</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/borrowing-renting-substituting-and-doing-without">Borrowing, renting, substituting, and doing without</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/looking-at-your-expenses-with-new-eyes">Looking at Your Expenses with New Eyes</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/eight-natural-ways-to-make-water-more-flavorful">Eight Natural Ways to Make Water More Flavorful</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/having-a-baby-nine-financial-considerations-for-new-parents">Having a baby? Nine financial considerations for new parents</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Frugal Living fixed expenses mortgage rent utilities Sun, 17 Feb 2008 23:27:47 +0000 Philip Brewer 1811 at http://www.wisebread.com