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Return to Budgeting

When saving money or creating a budget, one of the most important steps is to keep your expenses as low as comfortably possible. Reducing your expenses will leave more money to be available for saving or putting toward debt. When reducing your expenses, you should avoid reducing your expenses to the point that your budget is causing discomfort to the way you live.

Below are suggestions to comfortably reduce your monthly expenses. Some of the suggestions may produce immediate savings, while others may take some time to notice any savings. Other suggestions may require you to spend money, but will provide a significant reduction in your expenses over time.



Turn Off Lights. Turn off any lights that you are not using. When you leave a room, turn off any unnecessary lights or lamps.

Unplug Electronics. Unplug any electronic devices you are not using. Leaving electronics plugged in when they aren’t being used wastes electricity, even if they are turned off.

Dust Off Lights. When cleaning your home, make sure to dust off light bulbs and fixtures. This removes any obstructions that may decrease the light output.

Open Your Drapes/Curtains. You can light your house during the day by opening your drapes or curtains. This will save you money from turning on lights during the daytime.

Use Florescent Lights. Change regular light bulbs to florescent (or halogen) lights whenever possible. They may cost a bit more than regular bulbs; however, the benefits will outweigh the cost. Florescent lights are 3 times more energy efficient, 4 times brighter, and last 10 times longer.

Redecorate Your Walls. If florescent lights are too expensive of an option, try decorating your walls in a light colored paint or wallpaper. The light color will make the room appear brighter, allowing you to use bulbs that emit up to 50 percent less light while still getting the same results of a dark colored room.

Heating and Cooling (Gas or Electric)

Maintain Your AC. A poorly maintained AC can affect the efficiency of your unit. The harder the unit works the more energy it will consume. Clear away any dirt or obstructions from the fan and check the Freon levels.

Check Your Insulation. A properly insulated home will lower your heat and cooling cost by stopping the air from escaping. You can do this by going into your attic to make sure insulation covers all the 2x4s.

Use a Programmable Thermostat. Installing a programmable thermostat will allow you to reasonably set your thermostat while you are asleep or away from the house. As a rule of thumb, 65 degrees in the winter and 80 in the summer may be reasonable temperatures.

Check For Air Leaks. Check the windows and doors around your home for any air leaks. Using door sweeps or caulking to repair leaks will ensure the air in your home doesn’t escape.

Laundry Room Door. Keeping the laundry room door closed during the summer will prevent the dryer from heating up your home. In the winter, keep the door open to add a bit more heat.

Turn Off Ventilating Fans. When you are done with ventilating fan, like the ones in your kitchen or bathroom, make sure to turn them off. Leaving fans on when they are not being used wastes energy and can clear a room of heated or air conditioned air.

Keep Doors Closed. Keep the doors closed in rooms that are not being used. By keeping the doors closed in rooms you are not occupying, your heater or air conditioner will not have to work as hard. Closing your closet doors will also help save heating/ cooling costs.

Fireplace. If you have a fireplace but don’t use it, you may considerer getting it sealed or plugged. If you do use your fireplace, check the seal on the flue damper and adjust it to be as tight as possible.

Invest in Ceiling Fans. Ceiling fans will help save heating and cooling costs by circulating the air within a room.

Close Unused Heater Vents. Closing the vents in rooms you rarely use will save energy. Make sure your thermostat is not in a room that you closed the vents in because this will waste energy too.


Bathroom Sink. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth, wash your hands, or shave. Approximately 4 gallons of water are wasted every minute the water is left running.

Fix Any Leaks. Look inside and around the house for any leaking faucets or pipes. Check if your toilet is leaking by adding non staining food coloring to the water tank. If the coloring flows into the toilet bowl then there is a leak.

Bathroom Shower. Save water by taking quicker showers. You can also save water by installing aerators or other water reduction kits on your showerhead and other faucets.

Washing Dishes. When hand washing dishes, don’t let the water run while rinsing. Instead, fill up both parts of your sink and use one for washing and the other for rinsing. For dirty pots and pans, instead of running them under the water to loosen heavy grime, fill them up with soap and water and let them soak for a couple of hours.

Thawing Food. Instead of using hot running water to thaw frozen food, try using the defrost setting on your microwave. You can also plan ahead by letting your food thaw out in the refrigerator or countertop.

Heating Water. Turning on your faucet and waiting for the water to heat up wastes water and energy. Installing a rapid-delivery hot water kit will make faucet water hot in less than 15 seconds.

Water Outside the House. You can save water outside the house by using a broom to clean of porches and sidewalks. If you have fountains or ponds in your garden area, make sure the pumps recycle water instead of running off of new water. You can also save water by watering your plants and lawn during the early morning or night to reduce evaporation from the heat of the sun.

Gas and Miscellaneous

Get an Energy Audit. Many power companies provide energy audits free of charge. Most companies will inspect your home to recommend ways to reduce your energy bill or provide informational booklets on saving energy. Contact your power company to see if they offer this service.

Get a Tankless Water Heater. Unlike regular water heaters, tankless water heaters don’t store water; instead, water is heated instantly when needed. Although a lot of energy is used when in use, the overall savings come from not having to heat your water 24/7, like a regular water heater does.

Dual Hot and Cold Faucets. If you have a dual hot and cold faucet, make sure the faucet is always turned on from the cold side. Turning on the water from the hot side, even for a few seconds, will waste energy by firing up the water heater.

Lower Your Water Heater. Lower the temperature on your water heater by a few degrees. This will save money on your energy bill and extend the life of your water heater.

Cooking For One. Using an electric pan, toaster oven, or microwave can save more energy than using an oven or stove if you are cooking for yourself.

Preheating Your Oven. A lot of energy is often wasted on preheating your oven. If you are cooking something for less than an hour, 5 minutes of preheating will do fine. For cooking times over an hour, preheating is unnecessary.

Heating Food. Try to use a microwave instead of a conventional oven to heat up food. Microwaves save up to 50% in energy costs when compared to ovens.

Off Peak Hours. Call your energy company to find out when their off peak hours are. By doing things around the house during off peak hours, you can save more money on your energy bill.


Consolidate Your Debt. If you have multiple credit cards, consider transferring the balances to the card with the lowest interest. Consolidating your debts can also avoid late fees because you will not have to worry about managing so many cards.

Lower Your Interest. You can lower the interest on a high interest credit card simply by calling up your credit card provider. If you are in good standing with your credit card company, you can usually negotiate a lower interest rate for your credit card.

0% Interest. Another way to lower the interest on a credit card is to take advantage of promotional offers from other credit card companies. Most companies offer new customers an introductory rate of 0% if they transfer a balance from another credit card.

Avoid Late Fees. The best way to avoid late fees is to make the minimal payment as soon as you receive your credit card bill. If you have more money to add to your credit card at the end of the month, you can make an additional payment for the month, which takes more money off your debt.

Use a Prepaid Debit Card. Use a prepaid debit card to pay for monthly expenses instead of a credit card. Each month, load your card with the amount you budgeted for your expenses. By using a prepaid card instead of a credit card, you will prevent overspending because you are only using the amount you set aside for your expenses.



Clean Your Lint Tray. Cleaning the lint tray each time before you use the dryer will ensure proper air flow. This will cut down the drying time and extend the life of the dryer.

Don’t Overload. Overloading your dryer doesn’t allow enough space for the clothes to properly tumble, which increases the time needed to dry.

Separate Your Clothes. Separate delicates from garments made of heavier fabrics. Drying the delicates first will prevent overheating and save energy.

Hang Dry. In the summer, try and hang dry your clothes, outside or in the bathroom, instead of using the dryer. This will save energy and lower the temperature in your home. Even if your clothes are still damp after hang drying, you will still save energy from partially drying them outside the dryer.

Use Gas Instead of Electric. Gas dryers are much more energy efficient than electric dryers. Installation costs may also be cheaper too.

Use an Extra Spin. Heavier items like jeans and towels retain more water than regular garments. Putting them through an extra spin cycle will cut down the drying time.

Throw in a Towel. You can absorb more moisture from heavier items by adding a clean dry towel to the dryer. This can cut the drying time by 25%.

Use the Right Temperature. Make sure you read the labels on your garments to ensure you are using the right temperature when drying them. Too much heat will waste energy as well as damage the garments.

Check Outside Dryer Vent. Check your outside dryer vent for any lint clogs or other obstructions. Any obstructions to the air flow will increase the drying time and lessen the life of the dryer.

Washing Machine

Use Cold Water. Use cold water during a rinse cycle, as hot or warm water does not affect the rinse. Also, use cold or warm water whenever possible to avoid wasting energy.

Pre-soak Clothes. If your clothes aren’t clean enough after a warm or cold wash, try using a warm water pre-soak. A pre-soak will loosen dirt from clothes, especially heavy soiled ones, before they wash while helping to eliminate the need for hot water.

Only Wash a Full Load. Washing a full load will cost more energy than washing multiple smaller loads. If you can’t make a full load, make sure to set your washer to the correct load size to save energy.

Don’t Use Too Much Detergent. Most laundry loads can be washed by using a fraction of the recommended detergent amount.

Don’t Over Wash. Laundry items should be washed accordingly to how much they are soiled and the material they are made of.

Position of Your Washing Machine. Position your washing machine as close to the water heater as possible. The closer your machine is to the water heater, the less amount of heat is lost in the pipes.

Insulate Exposed Pipes. Insulating any exposed pipes from your washing machine to your water heater lower the amount of heat that escapes from the pipes.

Use a Front-load Washer. Front-loading washers are more energy efficient than top-load washers because they leave less water in the clothes.


Eliminate Dry Cycle. Instead of using the dry cycle on your dishwasher try hand drying your dishes or let them drip dry. If you must use your dishwasher to dry your dishes, use the air dry setting instead. You can eliminate the dry cycle by resetting the setting on your dishwasher or stopping it after the rinse cycle.

Wash a Full Load. Try to use your dishwasher only when it is full. Most of the cost from running a dishwasher comes from heating the water. Washing a full load of dishes will save more energy than washing several smaller ones.

Avoid Rinse Hold. If your dishwasher has a rinse hold setting, avoid using it. Rinse hold typically uses an extra 3 to 7 gallons of hot water for each wash.

Eliminate Pre-Rinse. Many new dishwashers eliminate the need to pre-rinse dishes before they are put into the dishwasher. If your dishes are heavily soiled you may think of pre-soaking the dishes in detergent to loosen the grime before you put them in the dishwasher.

Choose the Shortest Wash Cycle. Using a wash cycle that is longer than what is needed will waste energy. When picking a wash cycle consider the size of the load and how dirty the dishes are.

Other Settings. If your dishwasher has an energy saving or economy setting, use it. These settings are there to save you money.


Thawing Frozen Foods. The cold from the frozen food will help the refrigerator work less to regulate the inside temperature.

Position of Your Refrigerator. Place your refrigerator away from any heat sources, such as a dishwasher or oven. Also, avoid placing your refrigerator under a skylight or anywhere else in the path of direct sunlight. Positioning your refrigerator in such places can cause the compressor to work harder, which wastes more energy.

Clearance Around Your Refigerator. Make sure there is enough clearance around your refrigerator for air to circulate and heat to disperse. At least two inches around your refrigerator will provide enough clearance to operate properly.

Wait for Food to Cool. Wait for food to cool off before putting it into the refrigerator. Hot food will increase the temperature in the refrigerator, making it work harder to get back to the right temperature.

Set the Right Temperature. Make sure your refrigerator is not set too low. The refrigerator should be set between 36°F-40°F and the freezer between 0°F-5°F.

Defrost. Make sure you regularly defrost your manual-defrost refrigerator and freezer. Allowing frost to build more than 1/4 inch in either will waste energy by lowering the effectiveness of the unit.

Check Door Seals. Check the seal around your refrigerator and freezer to make sure the inside air is not leaking through. If you notice or suspect the seals are not working properly, add some Vaseline around them to ensure a good seal.

Think Before Opening. Avoid keeping the door of your refrigerator or freezer open while deciding what you are looking for, this will make your unit work harder from allowing cold are to escape. Think about what you need before opening the door and keep it open as short as possible.

Clean Your Condenser. Clean the condenser on your refrigerator as often as possible by removing any dirt or dust. A clean condenser will ensure the proficiency of your refrigerator.

Capacity. Make sure not to over pack your refrigerator and keep your freezer filled. Over packing your refrigerator will not allow proper air circulation while a filled freezer will increase its efficiency.


Use the Internet to Communicate. Instead of paying to call or send a letter, consider using the Internet to send an email or instant message.

Consolidate Your Communication. Instead of paying separate bills, find a company that provides all your communication needs. Usually for a discounted price, you can find a company that provides service for Internet, cell phones and landline telephone service all into one bill.

Reconsider Telemarketers. Instead of hanging up on solicitors asking you to switch over your telephone service, reconsider their offer. Telemarketers can often offer you a better price on your telephone service than you are already paying.

Shop Around. At least once a year, compare the price you are paying for your cell phone, house phone and Internet with prices from other companies. Some companies may even offer you an additional discount just for switching.

Evaluate Your House Phone Bill. Evaluate the features on your phone bill. Check to see if there are any features that you are not using or rarely using, such as call forwarding or call waiting. Eliminating these extra features may lower your phone bill.

Evaluate Your Cell Phone Bill. Evaluate your cell phone bill to see if there are any extra features you may not be using or rarely using, such as text messaging. You may also want to evaluate the number of minutes you use each month. If the number of minutes you use each month is much less than the minutes available on your plan, you may consider changing your phone plan.

Cell Phone or House Phone. If you have a cell phone and a house phone, you may want to monitor how much you use each of the phones. If you are using your cell phone much more than your house phone, or vise versa, you may consider choosing one instead of having the two.


Create a List. Make a list before you go grocery shopping. This will ensure you only get what you need and eliminate any guessing.

Don’t Shop on an Empty Stomach. Shopping on an empty stomach will cause you to buy things you don’t need because you are hungry. Make sure to have a snack or meal before you shop for groceries.

Check Your Receipt. Make sure your receipt is correct, especially if you buy items on sale. Computer scanners are only as accurate as the person programming them. Sometimes sale items are not put into the system or prices are inputted incorrectly.

Buy Meat in Bulk. You can save a lot of money by buying meat in bulk when it is on sale. Separate the meat into dinner sized portions and save in the freezer for future dinners.

Don’t Buy Too Much. Avoid buying to much of something just because it is on sale, especially perishable items. Only buy as much as you feel you will use. This goes for bulk items, which tend to be priced higher than normally packaged food. If you don’t anticipate using such a large quantity, go for a smaller amount.

Avoid Convenience Stores. Convenience stores such as the local corner store often have much higher prices then grocery stores. These stores provide a convenience because they are usually closer than grocery stores and open for longer hours.

Consolidate Your Shopping Trips. Try shopping once a week. By planning ahead you can create a list for the week of groceries you will need. Too many trips to the store will waste gas and lead to buying more than you need.

Compare Prices. There is not much difference between a $3.00 can of beans and $1.00 can of beans. Just because a food item is more expensive doesn’t mean it is a better quality, most of the time you are just paying for the brand name. Consider generic or store brands.

Position on Shelves. Items placed at eye level are often more expensive than those placed on the top and bottom shelves. Pay attention to these out of view items for better prices.

Use Coupons. Check your local newspaper for coupons on food. When shopping with coupons, only use coupons for food items you intend on using. Don’t buy something just because you have a coupon.

Use Leftovers. Be creative when cooking. If you make hamburgers for dinner one night, you can use the leftovers to make Sloppy Joes and a salad the next day. You can save money and waste less food by reusing leftovers.

Bring Your Lunch. You can save money by bringing your lunch to work instead of eating out. Consider packing leftovers from the previous night to create a tasty and unique lunch. If you do decide to eat out, try choosing a place with daily specials, as they are usually cheaper than other menu items.