Utility bills: a guide for families

Utility bills: a guide for families

Next to food and accommodation, utility bills are the single biggest expense for many families. Unless you live out in the sticks and do everything off the grid, they’re an expense you can’t escape. There are, however, ways that you can reduce them – by getting better deals, cutting down your usage, or even generating some of your own energy. These small savings can add up to a lot over time and make it much easier for your family to manage. Where can you start?

 Electricity and gas

For most households, the biggest utility expense is fuel to keep the home warm in winter and cool in summer, as well as to cook food, light the home and run electronic devices. The single biggest way to reduce this cost is to insulate your home properly – something that can be as effective at keeping heat out as at keeping it in. Bear in mind that in order to do this without compromising on the safety or value of your home, any work will need to be professionally certified. Each state does this slightly differently. You can get Texas-wide advice on this in order to find out how to meet Texas home warranty standards.

As well as fitting insulation, you can reduce costs by choosing appliances with good energy star ratings and keeping them well-maintained. Use common sense to avoid unnecessary expense – for instance, by making sure that there’s a full load in the washing machine before you use it. Switching to LED lighting is a big money-saver, and using smart appliances means that you can save by operating them remotely – for instance, turning on the A/C before you start the drive home from work so that you can arrive in a cool house without having to run it all day.

There are all sorts of ways to generate your own power, from running a small wind generator or hydro generator if you live in a rural area to using solar panels or solar gadgets, which can be done just about anywhere.

If you live in an area served by multiple energy companies, then haggle to get the best deal you can. Companies can be a lot more flexible than they let on. Find out what your neighbors are paying and make sure that you’re not being charged more.

 Water and sewage

Getting enough water is essential to good health and hygiene, which makes reducing water and sewage bills difficult for most people. You can reduce wastage, however, by fitting a graywater system to reclaim some of the water that is used in your home but that is not significantly polluted in the process, such as water used for cleaning dishes. This can be re-routed to irrigate your yard in summer or to fill your toilet cistern. It requires some initial outlay but not a huge amount, and the results can be very good.

 Trash and recycling

Cutting down on the amount of trash you generate starts with changing your buying habits and choosing items with less packaging. You can also save by recycling at home – for instance, by adding vegetable scraps to a compost heap – and by repairing things such as clothes and furniture rather than throwing them away. Switching to washable diapers for infants, reading newspapers online instead of in print, and using cloths instead of kitchen roll all make quite a difference. Crush items such as cans, soda bottles and cardboard tubes before adding them to the recycling to save on space and thereby reduce the number of loads that you need to pay to have taken away – or drop off recycling at a public collection point during your daily commute.

 Internet and cable

In today’s world, television, internet or both are essential ways of keeping in touch with the world and can even be essential to holding down a job. The cheapest way to access them is usually by getting both together as a package deal, which may also include your phones. There are always new special offers becoming available on deals like this, so shop around and be ready to haggle with the sales agents. Make sure that suitable infrastructure is in place for whatever deal you agree to, or that it comes as part of the package at no extra cost.

With most utility bills, paying in monthly instalments by direct debit entitles you to lower rates. Getting smart meters fitted helps you track your usage and identify any factors that are putting a particular strain on your resources. This approach can help you to cut those bills and increase the funds you have to spend on other things.

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