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.
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?