No matter our income category or circumstances, most of us get excited when we hear about a sale or discover a new way to cut an old expense. There is perhaps no one more familiar with the joy of saving money than a homeowner. With mortgage payments and interest, home insurance, real estate taxes, utilities, repairs, regular maintenance—and let's not forget unexpected replacements: roofs, furnaces, water heaters, septic systems—home expenses account for roughly 30% to 40% of a homeowner's income.1
Contrary to our parents' advice, we don't need to eat hot dogs for a week, keep only one light on in our home at a time, or install a timer on the hot water heater to save money on household expenses. In fact, saving money on household expenses is as easy as making a phone call.
Here are 5 simple ways to save money on household expenses.
1. Call your energy company
Most energy companies offer a free home inspection to help you save money on your energy bill. The company sends a team of experienced technicians to your home to inspect your energy usage and identify areas for energy savings. If you have older light bulbs, they may replace them with newer, energy-saving LED lights. They check for air leaks, including in air ducts, and seal what they can access. Most companies inspect your water heater and faucets, adding water pipe insulation and replacing faucet aerators. Following the inspection, your technician sends you a detailed report of the team's findings with suggestions for improvement. Some companies give rebate coupons to use toward new attic insulation or kitchen appliances.
2. Cancel your oil contract
When your tank is around 1/4 - 1/2 full, call around to multiple oil companies in your area to find the lowest price. Many oil companies also have websites where they post the day's rate on their home page. If you happen to find a company with the lowest rate, and the company has a great reputation, talk with their Sales team about signing up for a monthly contract that locks you into that low price. Just be sure to check their fees and read over their contract cancellation terms with care.
3. Unplug your landline
Most of us have a cell phone nowadays and, in many families, each family member has her own cell phone. Still, some families keep paying for a landline telephone (it's that box in the basement family room that's attached to the wall and collecting dust). Landlines are becoming obsolete as communication technologies advance. Many homes are switching to free Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. VoIP allows you to call or video chat using any device that is connected to the internet (IP address). Companies such as Viber and Skype excel in offering free local, national, and international phone calls with crystal clear quality that far exceeds landlines and some cell phones.
4. Cut the cord
The average American adult spends 35 or more hours per week watching television.2 To compensate for a steadily increasing loss of subscribers to streaming companies such as Netflix and Amazon—who offer inexpensive, popular, original, and on-demand content—cable companies consistently raise prices and add fees to stay afloat. Average cable spending is up to $103 and rising.3 If you're not quite ready to cut the cable cord, try these tips:
Just before your subscription expires, call the cable company to say you are cancelling your subscription. Most companies will negotiate a better rate with you to get you to stay.
If you are attached to networks such as HBO or Showtime for certain shows, subscribe to the network while your show is in season, then cancel between seasons. The same applies to sports networks—if you only watch ESPN during Football Season, only subscribe for the season.
Limit the total number of cable boxes you have in your home—the fewer the better.
Cancel your DVR service and switch to a regular cable box. Most shows appear On-Demand within a day or so, and there is no need to duplicate with a DVR recording.
Downgrade your subscription to a plan that covers only the channels you watch, and watch the rest of your content on a streaming provider such as Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu.
5. Plan your meals
Try this exercise for five business days: write down every food and drink item you spend money on throughout the day, from the .50 cent Lifesavers to the $4.25 drive-thru coffee and $2 banana. At the end of the week, add up all of your costs. How much did you spend? Now, put a star next to repeat items (your morning coffee, your afternoon yogurt). Trust us, the information is enlightening! Cost savings when you plan your meals are priceless. You reduce food waste, eat healthier, feel better, save time, and save money.
Step 1: Pick a weekend day and spend time planning your meals for the week. For drinks, switch to store-brand flavored seltzer or filtered tap water with a splash of your favorite citrus. If you're strapped for time, many websites already have meal plans you can print, for free. To keep costs down, pick recipes that overlap ingredients such as beef stew and shepherd's pie—both use baby carrots and potatoes. Buy the items that repeat on your list in wholesale stores. For example, BJ's Wholesale sells boxes of name-brand K-Cups for a fraction of the price per cup at major drive-thru chains.
Step 2: Find grocery stores that offer grocery delivery services, such as Stop & Shop's, Peapod. Since you select groceries online, you can shop 24/7 and add items to your cart or re-order a previous list. Sort items by best match, rating, or lowest price. Rest assured you'll have fresh ingredients delivered straight to your counter on the day you specify (we use Peapod and are very happy with the quality, freshness, and timeliness). Meal services such as Sun Basket and HelloFresh are a bit pricier yet may be just what you're looking for if you crave the gourmet flavors of dining out without the price tag. They create weekly meal plans, use gourmet ingredients, and provide you with perfectly portioned ingredients for each, individually packaged meal. Recipes are easy and typically take less than 30 minutes. These companies offer low introductory prices, free meals, gift certificates, wine pairings, cooking tips, and special diet options such as Vegan and Gluten Free.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Consumer Expenditures in 2015," https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/consumer-expenditures/2015/pdf/home.pdf, 2015
Business Insider, "The average American watches so much TV it's almost a full-time job," 2016