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At the FAF household, we have seven key recurring expenses that account for the majority of our expenses (from largest to smallest):
1. Mortgage: We are aggressively trying to pay off our mortgage.
We throw most of our disposable income towards our principle payment every month.
2. Daycare: We picked an in-home daycare near our house for Baby FAF.
It’s significantly cheaper than other daycare centers in the area.
We can of course find cheaper options, but we don’t want to compromise our son’s safety and care to save a bit more money.
3. Food: This is one of our biggest expenses and weaknesses. We are working together to lower our grocery bills.
4. Utility bills: We have various tips we implement at home to save on electricity and water which I will share with you in this post.
5. Cell phone bill: Our cell phone contract expires in December 2017. I will try to talk Mr. FAF into trying Republic Wireless.
6. Gas: Mr. FAF drives to work every day. Other than that, we just make some quick trips to the grocery stores each week. Sometimes we also go to events in the DC area.
7. HOA fee: We live in a townhouse community, so we pay the HOA fee quarterly. It also covers exterior maintenance, the master insurance plan, community swimming pool maintenance, and trash pickup. There’s not much we can do about this fee.
The categories highlighted in red (food, utility, and cell phone bills), in my opinion, have the most potential to be reduced.
In this post, I will discuss the six tips we enforce at our house to lower our utility bills.
1. Set the thermostat to 77 F in the summer and 64 F in the winter
Summer: 77 degrees is perfect for us. We have a central air system. When we have the AC on, it’s blasting cold air everywhere to the point where all of us get cold and have to put on a light jacket.
Instead of wearing jackets and using thick blankets at home when it’s scorching hot outside, we’ve decided to set the thermostats at 77 degrees.
Sometimes it does get really hot and humid that I can’t sleep, so I try to use a fan as well. Although it works every once in a while, most of the time I just can’t fall asleep.
I’m not sure if it’s because the mattress is just too hot or if I’m having a first-world problem. But I figured a good sleep is better than a couple of dollars saved on a 1 degree increase in temperature, so sometimes I just turn the thermostat down to 76.
Winter: Ideally, we would like to keep the temperature at 71 degrees in the winter. But that would cost more money. We decided to keep the temperature at 64 degrees, 7 degrees lower than our preferred temperature.
According to the DOE’s Energy Savers, you can lower your heating bill by 3% for each degree that you turn your thermostat down during the winter. If our utility bills is on average $150/month, keeping the temperature at 64 instead of 71 degrees with save us 5% in utility costs or $7.5/month ($90/year).
Some might insist that our family’s comfort is worth more important than $7.5/month, and I agree. However, there are simple things we can do at home to stay comfortable in the cold weather.
2. Wear more clothes in the winter
Wear a sweater and/or a jacket
When it gets cold, we put on more clothes instead of going straight to the thermostat to turn it up. If you have any old sweaters or hoodies that don’t look good enough for you to wear outside, this is a perfect occasion to put them to good use.
Mr. FAF and I have two pairs of really thick pajamas my in-laws bought for us in China. They keep us warm in the winter and prevent us from wanting to crank up the heat.
Wear thick socks and a pair of fluffy flippers indoors
In our family, we all have a pair of flippers to wear inside the house. When it’s freezing outside, we have a separate set of warm fluffy slippers to wear at home.
Keeping our feet warm is important in preventing a cold and keeping your whole body warm and healthy. You can get winter slippers for less than $10, and they can last for more than a winter.
3. Use a space heater
Our baby’s health is important, and no amount of money can measure up to his good health. We’re conscious that while we can put on more clothes for him in the cold winter, there comes a point where he needs to take a shower.
We use a space heater to warm up the bathroom for about 5 minutes so that he won’t catch a cold. It gives me peace of mind knowing that my baby feels comfortable in the shower even if it’s freezing outside.
Sometimes when one of us feels cold while the others don’t, a space heater will also be put to use.
4. Turn off all the lights that are not in use
I’m happy to report that our family is conscious of turning off all the lights after leaving a room or when we don’t need them. When I’m taking a shower in the bathroom, I will turn off the light in our bedroom. When we’re not using the light in the hallway, I will also turn it off.
The only light we have on overnight is our porch light to keep away burglars and people with unclear intentions. It can signal to the burglars that we’re at home or that they can be recognized when they come close to our house to rob us (or anyone else for that matter).
1. Take a quick shower
Mr. FAF is particularly good at implementing this tip. His shower can take less than 5 minutes. Sometimes I feel that he just jumps into the shower, turns on the water, turns it off, and then jumps out.
I have no idea how he does that, but I will give him props for saving us water and money. I have been trying hard over the past 20 years or so to reduce the time I spend in the shower. At one point, I even took a clock into the bathroom and timed myself.
My shower time did go down to 20-25 minutes from 30-35 minutes, which I’m super happy about and proud of. But it’s nowhere near the 5-minute shower Mr. FAF takes.
2. Use a cup to hold water when brushing our teeth
I’m not sure why it sounded like a good idea to me. But at one point in my life, I just cupped my bare hands to get water from the faucet to brush my teeth. Maybe the idea of having a cup sitting in the bathroom for days in a row didn’t sound sanitary to me.
But I’m glad I soon gave up on that way of thinking and switched to using a mug. Instead of letting the water run nonstop and using my small hand to catch however much water I can, I now use a cup to hold water and rinse my mouth when I brush my teeth.
Mr. FAF, on the other hand, wants to catch water in the most natural way possible: straight from the faucet. Whenever I hear the water running in the bathroom when he’s brushing his teeth, I will need to shout out: “Don’t waste water, please!” Mr. FAF will then switch to using the mug.
And the whole cycle restarts the next time he brushes his teeth. I’ve caught myself saying “Don’t waste water, please!” a lot since Mr. FAF came back to DC.
I realized that our lifestyle and habits have a major impact on our utilities.
Some of us want to have a brightly lit house with all the lights on while some want to have the light on only in the small space where they’re active.
Some of us want to feel comfortable with the temperature turned up high in the winter since we can wear light clothing. Some want to put on all the needed clothes to feel warm in the cold.
While it’s important that we live our lives in a way that maximizes our happiness, there are things we can do to both live comfortably and to save money as I mentioned above.
There’s really no right or wrong way to do something as long as it’s not unethical or illegal. We all have reasons for every little thing that we do in life.
As for Mr. FAF and me, we prioritize frugality and harmonize it with our lifestyle. And we’ve been generally been happy with what we do to save money on utilities.
How do you save on utilities at home? Do you also do any of the things mentioned above to lower the utility bill?
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25 thoughts on “6 Easy Ways To Cut Your Utility Bills Today”
Jared and I both cup water with hands and never use a cup. He’s the one that caught me that. Before I met him I always used a cup. Then I realized I don’t have to wash a cup so I switched. Lazy will always win over here 🙂
I didn’t know you guys had a HOA fee! That’s so cool you guys get a community pool!! Do you guys use it? Is it crowded?
Oh yeah! Score one for the guys. I always cup my hand too.
Whoa, 64 degree is pretty cold. You should check my post about our kotatsu table. It will really help you guys.
Now that we’re older, we prefer around 68 degrees. It’s too cold below that for our old bones.
I cup my hand too hahah! My husband uses a cup. It gets really gross fast with toothpaste water and I’m lazy to wash it.
I like my long showers too… My husband takes really quick 5 min showers. I don’t think I’m 25 min maybe 10-15? I should time it next time to see 🙂
I prefer using my hands to cup water too haha. But my frugality wins over laziness. :”>
We barely use the community pool. Mr. FAF said it’s too small and not clean enough. I don’t like it either since the water dries out my hair despite the goggles. Also, I don’t want to get tan lol
The shorter showers are always hard for me! Haha, but they are worth it!
We typically keep our thermostat pretty low in the winter (we don’t have AC so it is less of a concern in the summer) and just bundle up indoors. It is a great way to cut a few $$ out of the budget each month!
I want to take shorter showers too. But I don’t want to get rid of any steps in the process (of showering) >_< I envy Mr. FAF his 2-min showers 😀
Hey, Mrs. FAF. Great tips. I especially like the idea of using a cup while brushing one’s teeth. It’s always bothered me to have the water running while I floss and brush. And I had to laugh about the lights. Mrs. Groovy is very carefree when it comes to lights. I don’t pester her about it, I just got into the habit of turning off the lights whenever she leaves a room. Ah, the things we do for love.
Hi Mr. Groovy, that’s really nice of you to turn off the lights for Mrs. Groovy. Mr. FAF and I used to get into small fights over the lights too. He always forgot to turn off the lights. He has gotten better at it, and I have let some incidents go without pestering him about it. Life’s good again 😀
Hi Mrs. FAF! Love these tips. It seems silly but people have forgotten they can wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat! What would Mr. Money Mustache say about this?! Anyway, I have a couple thoughts for you on your expenses that you might find interesting:
(1) Mortgage – Just like compound interest that is earned, compound interest that is pays accrues most on the early dollars. So there is an inflection point on the mortgage payback table where you will pay much less interest on what is left. If you get tired of throwing all the money at the principle, at some point you might be able to slow down a little. I’m only saying this because someone might find it daunting to throw all their money in for many years at a time.
(5) Cell Phones – This one is like a never ending headache on the internet 🙂 I actually tired Republic myself. It wasn’t a bad service but there are 2 caveats: (1) It uses public wifi – there are some security issues around this. For my money, I’ll be using cell data. (2) Its backbone is Sprint or the Tmobile network. Both aren’t that great in rural places. If you happen to go to such a place, or merely drive through such a place, you could be in for a bad surprise. For this reason, I went with ATT prepaid – I got more data than Republic, and a better backbone network for less than Republic. Granted the min spend was higher. You can find the how-to on my website if you are interested.
Wow thank you SO MUCH for your great advice, Handy Millennial! Mr. FAF has suggested we slow down on the mortgage payment too, so what you said totally makes sense and is in line with what Mr. FAF and I are thinking. I didn’t know Republic has such caveats. It’s definitely something to think about. Other PF bloggers have given raving reviews on this service, so I thought it was perfect (for some reason – eh). I will look into ATT prepaid. Thanks again! ^.^
Shorter showers are always easier for me in the summer – during the winter we keep our house at 69F and it feels nice to be in a warm shower 🙂 I haven’t had a summer in our place yet to know how it “feels” but I’m shooting for ~75F. We’ll see…
We brush out teeth in the shower most days. You could argue that we’re then spending a few extra minutes with the shower running, but we’d probably be in there for that time regardless just enjoying the warmer water.
I have turned the temp on the hot water heater down a tiny bit and I’m going to keep incrementally doing it until my wife doesn’t notice. She loves taking nearly-scalding hot showers so this one might be tricky!!
Oh haha I tried brushing my teeth in the shower too. And I realized I like looking at myself in the mirror when I brush my teeth :”>
I also love hot showers. But then I read somewhere that it’s not good for the skin, so I’m trying to work on that @_@
We keep it at 77 in the summer and 68 in the winter. It works well for us. Especially in the winter, we make it a point to wear socks around the house also because it feels cozier and I’m always in a hoodie anyway 🙂
I do regret having a vaulted ceiling in my MBR because all the warm air goes to the ceiling.
I didn’t know a vaulted ceiling is not energy-efficient. I’ll keep that in mind the next time we buy a house.
We wear socks in our house too. If it’s cold. I might wear 2 pairs of socks. @_@
Good tips, Ms. FAF. About saving the utility bills, it reminds me of the book by Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Total Recall”. Arnold set up the 5-minute shower rule for his family. I guess mainly for the kids. Also he dictated the lights rule: shut off the lights when not using them, leaving the house or during night. How to enforce the lights rule? If one kid forgot to turn off the lights once, Arnold would take one light bulb out. Probably it won’t take too long before that kid’s room becomes totally dark.
Wow that’s a really good strategy to remind the kids to turn off the lights in their rooms. I might implement that when Baby FAF grows up. Thanks for the tip, Helen! ^.^
We live in a co-op so heat/water is included in our maintenance fee. With A/C, we also set it to 77 in the summer time. And while I don’t pay for water, I still like to conserve. It’s a pet peeve of mine when I see people leave the water running when they brush their teeth…same with leaving the lights on when not in use!
Also, for cell phone, I use Cricket Wireless. I used to have AT&T and they use the same network so no difference except a lot cheaper. I pay $100 for a family plan of 5 (I pay for my parents’ bill)
I’m also using Cricket. It has been 2 years. I don’t use much data. I’m happy with it. $30 for 2GB data (used to be 1GB, lately changed to 2GB), unlimited voice and text, taxes and fees included, not a bad deal.
This is really great information. I’m really interested in finding out how you get 5 people on a cell phone plan for $100. How many gigs per person? What are the discounts?
“It’s a pet peeve of mine when I see people leave the water running when they brush their teeth…same with leaving the lights on when not in use!”
Those are my pet peeves too! And $100 for 5 people sounds awesome!
We keep the heat at about 68 in the winter and I sleep ok. On those extra frigid nights I must crank it to 70 just before bedtime and then turn it down a bit. In the summer we keep it at around 70-72 most of the time. We don’t like being uncomfortable and I’d rather spend a few extra dollars rather than not being able to sleep because I’m too warm.
These are great tips! We live in a drafty old house and it’s a struggle in the winter because I feel like our furnace hardly ever shuts off, even though we keep it fairly cool inside. We definitely need new windows/insulation but our plan is to rebuild in the next few years so it’s not an expense I’m willing to pay for right now.
I’m always so jealous of the available cell phone planes in the states, they’re so much more expensive here in Canada. I pay $60/month and that’s on a pretty good corporate plan!
We use our hands as a cup too after we brush our teeth. Mother with Cents doesn’t like leaving a cup in the bathroom to simply use it for rinsing your teeth. Maybe I could force her to use a mug like you guys so we don’t have to waste water.
Another cell phone provider you can look into is Boost Mobile. Right now we’re paying $85 a month for three users(me and both my in-laws) and get unlimited calls, texts and 1 GB of data. And plus they don’t count the data against you if your on wifi.
I have used Republic Wireless for the past few years. I really like it. I pay $12/month for unlimited text and talk, no data. I do have a smartphone and can use the internet if there is WiFi. I really only do this at home, though. I just don’t find that I need to be on the internet at the park, for instance. I bought a GPS for the car, this was a $99 one time expense vs paying for data each month. My husband has an iPhone with unlimited data that his work pays for and yes, his phone is better than mine. But mine is $12/month!
What is the interest rate on your mortgage? Ours is 2.9%, so it hasn’t made sense to us to pay extra on the mortgage at this point. We put our extra money into maxing out our HSA (then leaving that money for retirement), then 401K, then Roth IRA. Our next goal is to start saving for college. The mortgage is done in another 14 years, I don’t know if we will ever get to the point where we decide to pay it down more quickly. I’m just interested in how you decided on that priority.
Thanks for sharing your tips, Tarynkay! Mr. FAF and I just hate debt, so we want to get rid of the mortgage asap. It might not make mathematic sense, but we just want to have peace of mind knowing that we will still have our house should both of us lose our jobs. We’re maxing out our 401(k) but haven’t contributed to HSA or IRA yet (which we should though). 😀