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How to Cut Living Expenses and Put Money Back in Your Pocket

Millions of homeowners throughout the country are struggling to meet their mortgage payments and pay off credit card debt. Are you one of those?

Before you throw in the towel in frustration, have you first considered all of the ways you can save money to help meet those payment obligations and pay down those debts?

As the old saying goes, “a dollar saved is a dollar earned”, or something like that. When it comes to saving money, there’s no more practical way to it than to look right inside the confines of your own home.

Some very practical ways to reduce home operating expenses include:

  1. Adding weather stripping around doors and applying caulking to seal air leakage around windows.

  2. Adding an extra 6 inches of attic insulation.

  3. Using less water by installing low-flow shower heads and employing strategic watering methods for lawns and gardens. Drip systems work great!

  4. Keeping lights turned off in unused spaces in the home.

  5. Wrapping your older water heater with an insulating blanket.

  6. Operating your furnace only when you’re there.

  7. Heating only the room you’re in, not the whole house.

Employing these strategies should be in the interest of every homeowner for environmental reasons, if for nothing else. But did you know that these methods could also cut hundreds of dollars in monthly living expenses for the average homeowner? For many, the savings can be startling.

We sometimes get so caught up in how we invest our money (worrying about risk and volatility in the stock market, which we can’t control), that we don’t look first at what should be most obvious and that which we have the most control over - our monthly living expenses.

Most people forget, or simply don’t think, how leaving the water running continuously, or leaving the lights on or how we heat our homes when not occupied, can cost hundreds, if not thousands a year to household expenses.

Most people don’t stop to think how flipping on a light switch will spin that electric meter a little faster. And most don’t think how running the kitchen faucet continuously while wiping down the counter-tops wastes gallons and gallons of water. These modern conveniences are not free. They cost money. They are always at work siphoning away our hard-earned dollars and precious resources.

Do you want to start saving? If the answer is yes, then it’s time change some habits.

The first step is to think. Step back, pause long and hard, and ask “how do we live from day to day? Are there changes we can make that will save on resources? Take an inventory of everything you buy and consume. What can be eliminated or trimmed back? You may discover that you and your family are largely unaware of how the little things combined can add up to a whole lot. If you’re doing everything possible to cut and slash, congratulations! But for the rest – now is the time to make some changes.

The next step is to gather together your utility bills for the past year including electric, gas, telecommunications, etc. Analyze, compare and decide where your biggest abuses are. Then make some arbitrary goals for cutting costs. Ask yourselves “what percentage cuts can we make toward some of our biggest utility expenses?

Most households could cut water usage by 50% with just a little discipline. That’s one of the easier ones. It really is easy to take shorter showers (two minutes is all it takes most people to get the job done). Less water on the lawns done at strategic times really works.

Cutting down the operating time of the furnace and air conditioner by 50% is also very practical with some strategic planning. Heating only the primary dwelling space of the home using a room heater (rather than turning on the central furnace to heat the whole house, including unoccupied spaces) can slash heating costs by up to 60%!

Time to act. Gather the family around. Then set goals and guidelines to use less water and power (i.e. shorter showers, turning off lights, keeping the thermostat lower during winter months, etc., etc.). There is a big difference between just talking about it and actually doing it. Everyone in the household should agree to make changes and agree to be held accountable to them.

Many homeowners are slashing their average monthly living expenses by as much as 50%. The fun part is doing the math. Imagine spending $700.00 per month on utilities and cutting that in half. That’s a savings of $350.00 per month. That’s $4,200 per year that could be used to pay down the mortgage, pay off credit card debt or put toward your child’s education fund.

Scott Workman is president and owner of Infra-Red Products Supply, Inc., and a specialist in energy-saving gas heating systems.

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