When I first started reading about finances and trying to get mine in the right shape, there was a lot of people talking about doing some simple things that would yield big yearly returns. Many times, these things are talked about as if you just stated doing them, you’d be a millionaire over night and your finances would no longer be be a wreck. Most of these things are changing of daily activities, like not buying starbucks (a favorite of many people, but never a problem for me because I gave up caffeine) or taking your lunch to work every day (also not a game changer for me because I already did that) too. Those are probably the most popular ones, but there’s also things like buying less of whatever you like to collect, like baseball cards or glass penguin figures. These are solid moves if they fit for your situation, but what if you’re already doing these things (like I was) and are still interested in cutting further and doing so in a way that will benefit the earth as well as your wallet?
Unfortunately, there’s not a great deal of things that will help you out that you can do immediately, but there are plenty of things that you can do if you like.
- Consider replacing your appliances. Obviously, this one will not be cheap, but it can help in the long run if you switch something major that is on all the time (like your fridge) to something that consumes way less energy. Even though you’ll be spending more up front on a new unit, you’ll make money long term. If you want to do this, start thinking about the things around your house that are always on: A fridge, a chest freezer, a coffee maker, a microwave, a water heater, etc. Then you can figure out how much it will cost to run those units per month, (most will have stickers on the back saying how much energy they use for a given period of time) and look at new ones and see how much energy a new one would use. Eventually, the new one will pay for itself (and will even quicker if your old one is terribly inefficient). This goes for things other than energy as well – toilets/showerheads/washing machines can all be calculated like this, but with your equation containing water cost instead of energy. One word of advice: If you do all of this then get down to appliances that spend most of their time not plugged in (such as a blender or a toaster, perhaps) you’d probably be better off stopping there. Saving .00004 cents per hour each hour the appliance is plugged in will add up if it’s plugged in 24/7, but not if it’s plugged in for 15 minutes a day.
- Lower your water usage. This is a lot like the tip above, but for water. Usually this can come much cheaper than replacing all of your appliances as well. You may think this doesnt really apply to you if your pipes are not leaking (and that’s great they arent) but even then, there’s still ways to save that you can do on the cheap. At my house, we have a half gallon jug full of water in the toilet tank to take up space when the water fills up. This reduces every flush by .5 gallons (or so) of water, which will add up over time and does not cost anything. There are also ways to save water by spending a bit of money, such as switching to a low flow shower head or a dual flush toilet, but even then these cost less than $50 and will yield savings right away.
- Change the Temperature. Like the others, there are many ways you can do this. One of the easiest ways to feel warmer at home (or cooler, if it’s summertime) is to add (or subtract) a layer of clothing. Growing up when I told my parents it was cold and they should turn up the heat, they told me to put on a sweatshirt or sweater, and in grad school when the heater broke, my roommate and I ended up wearing hats and gloves in the house on some occasions because it got so cold. Of course, if you’re looking to spend a bit more money you can reap a much bigger reward in this area as well. One of the best ways to do that is by installing a programmable thermostat, which cost anywhere from $30-$100. It takes about an hour or so to install, and you can tell it when to turn on and when to turn off everyday so you’re not heating or cooling the house when you know it will be empty (like when you’re at work) and so that it will be nice and warm when you get out of bed in the morning.
Doing these small things can sometimes cost some money in the beginning (but replacing appliances does not have to be expensive) but will save loads of energy and money over time. Best part about it is, you’ll get used to it and soon wont even know!