Sunday, April 09, 2006

Saving Money on Utilities

When I last left off, our budget-cutting had netted us a monthly savings of $130.24, which translates into $1,562.88 in annual savings. Not bad, but we're just getting warmed up. Today, I'm going to look at the utilities portion of our budget, which would seem to be one of the hardest places in the budget to save money. Well, we're going to have to get creative.

First up is trash collection. I have received a few recent mailings from trash collectors advertising a significant discount for the first three months with no long term commitment. One could probably cut costs by switching a couple of times per year. For me, that is not an option.

The company I use is owned by a guy who went to high school with my brother (same school as me) and he does a great job. Case in point: I recently installed hardwood floors in my home and had a bunch of carpet to get rid of. One morning when he arrived to take the trash, I went out and asked him if he could take some of the trash. He took it all and saved me a trip to the dump. How can you leave a company after that? Besides, he's also cheaper than most of the others.

However, I did say we went to the same high school. Now we're onto something! That small, private school has a Tuition Reduction Program (TRIP) where businesses credit a percentage of your purchases of their products or services to a tuition account of your choosing. Turns out that my trash collector pays 9% so I signed up. Now, $1.38 per month and $16.59 per year is deposited in a tuition account for my kids. I hope to send them there some day and the tution is north of $4,000 per year, so every little bit helps. I'll be talking more about this opportunity with other bills.

Next is electricity. Nothing we can do here, right? Well, maybe there are some things we can do. My provider is Xcel Energy and their web site is full of resources and useful tips for how to save money on your electrical bill. They even have a handy PDF called: 60 Simple Ways To Save Money On Your Energy Bill.

One of the 60 tips is to install Compact Fluorescent light bulbs. According to ENERGY STAR, replacing a 100-watt incandescent with a 32-watt CFL can save you at least $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb. If you pledge to change a light in your house, ENERGY STAR will send you a free gift. GE has more information about CFL bulbs, and some coupons, at GELighting.com. I'm going to give them a try.

The one easy way to save money (and time) with electricity (and most bills) is to set them up for automatic bill pay. The money we save on the stamp and the debt retirement is $0.45 per month or $5.39 annually. We're now at a monthly savings of $132.07 and an annual savings of $1,584.84 and we're not even half way through our budget.

I'll be talking about the other utilities soon.