What you spend on your utilities may be one of the quickest areas to make changes in if you want to cut back on your spending.
We are inundated with advertising regarding our choice of smartphones and carriers, and there are more choices to be made than just Verizon vs. AT&T and iPhone vs. Android. No one single company or brand is right for every person. Before your next opportunity to change phones or carriers, really consider what your needs and preferences are. Where are you willing to be flexible in order to find a lower price? Often, paying for an unsubsidized smartphone up front will allow you to lower your monthly bill and pay less money for and have more flexibility in your plan over a one- or two-year period. Check coverage maps and ask friends about whether a certain carrier you are considering using has reception in your city and the cities you frequently visit. Republic Wireless and now Project Fi are utilizing Wi-Fi coverage for data and calls to lower the usage of cell phone towers, which dramatically lowers the cost of a plan. The cell phone landscape is constantly evolving, so check for new types of options every time a contract ends or you are considering a change.
Further reading: Get to Know an MVNO. It Could Save you Millions.
The most frugal approach is to first decide what your needs are in terms of internet upload/download speeds and television programming and then find the best deal you can to meet those needs. Don’t allow yourself to pay for more services than you actually use.
Many Millennials today have never paid for cable TV or have canceled it. The cable monolith has finally started to crack in recent years, so a lot of programming is becoming available on an a la carte basis. Be sure to evaluate all your alternatives for watching TV and movies aside from cable, such as over-the-air signal, Netflix, Hulu (Plus), Amazon Prime, Sling, Redbox, HBO Go, WatchESPN, and network websites. You may even decide to forgo paying for television programming in your home in favor of attending watch parties with your peers for sports, cultural events, and favorite shows.
Cable and internet companies often offer promotional rates to new customers that expire after a few months or a year. Don’t allow your bill to increase without negotiating with the company for a lower rate. You may be able to extend the promotional rate for several years just by asking, or switch companies or the name on the bill frequently to always get new customer rates (but watch out for one-time fees).
Depending on your lifestyle desires, you may even consider not having internet or TV in your home. As a student, you likely have access to high-quality Wi-Fi on campus, which you can use for both work and play, and you can use a smartphone for incidental data needs when you are at home.
Heating and Cooling
When you are a homeowner, you can upgrade your insulation and windows to lower your heating and cooing bills, but as a renter you probably only have control over the thermostat and your own body. Try to keep the temperature in your home set a bit higher in the warmer weather, a bit lower in the cooler weather, and off in the temperate seasons. Compensate with your clothing and bedding and possibly fans, space heaters, and electric blankets.
Use a programmable thermostat to keep your home at a comfortable temperature when you are present and minimize electricity usage when you are not home.
To minimize electricity use, turn off lights and appliances when you are not using them. You can lower your electric bill by using less hot water when showering or washing dishes or clothes. You might also try adjusting or eliminating high-cost appliance usage, such as by hang-drying laundry instead of using a dryer or washing dark-colored clothes in cold water.
Many appliances draw power even when they are off (vampire power), so consider unplugging them entirely or using smart power strips to cut power completely when the devices are not in use. You can investigate how much electricity various appliances in your home use with a device such as a Kill-a-Watt.
Further reading: Our Hang-Dry Laundry Strategy; How Smart Power Strips Work; How to Find Out What’s Costing You Money on Your Electric Bill; 4 Things Everyone Should Do to Save Electricity; My New 1000% Annual Return-on-Investment Clothes Dryer
If you are paying for water by usage, lowering your volume of water usage will directly lower your bill. You can take shorter showers or shower at your gym instead of at home. Using a dishwasher is usually more water-efficient than washing dishes by hand. Consider how you can change each habit you have with respect to water to avoid waste, such as in the kitchen and yard.
Further reading: How to Save on Your Water Bills
A homeowner can install water-efficient appliances such as toilets, washing machines, and dishwashers or even reuse greywater.
Further reading: 100+ Ways to Conserve
Join Our Phinancially Distinct Community
Receive 1-2 emails per week to help you take the next step with your finances.