Category Archives: Money

5 Tips to Lower Utility Bills

5 Tips to Lower Utility Bills

Utility bills seem to shift frequently, due in part to instability in the energy sector and the volatility of certain environmental issues, including fracking that may endanger water wells and land management jeopardized by gas pipelines. Whatever the reason, most of us don’t see our utility bills dropping by much, if any, each year. Instead, they seem to rise almost predictably over time. Since utility company employees need to eat as customers do and our bills must be paid to maintain a good credit rating, we should pay utility bills on time. But there are simple things you can do to lower costs.

Double-Check Your Rates

Even a utility company can make a billing mistake. Double-check meter readings or compare to the previous month’s or year’s bill, and call the billing office to discuss any discrepancies. If a statement seems high, find out if a raise went into effect or if you have accidentally been overcharged, which can sometimes happen.

Compare Utility Providers

If you find that a utility company keeps raising rates consistently, or if there is a spike in the regular rate, check out the competition for lower prices. Your current provider may be willing to lower its rate to match one by a competitor. Alternately, you can switch to the lower-cost provider, but carefully check all costs to find hidden expenses before changing over to the new company.

Turn Off When Not In Use

Make a habit of turning off unused appliances like the television, computer, or lights when leaving a room. Equipment with lights that stay on during disuse can impact monthly utility bills. Collectively, several appliances that are turned off when unused may help to lower monthly costs. Check for leaky faucets and fix them to keep the water bill low. Close heat vents in unused rooms and close the door to avoid paying to heat unoccupied rooms.

Use Utilities Minimally

Cut back on utility use when possible. For example, instead of running the air conditioner around the clock in summertime, turn it on during the hottest part of the day and set it to the highest setting that will cool you off without draining the budget. Do the same for winter heating utilities involving gas, oil or propane, setting the thermostat to 68 degrees if everyone in the household can tolerate it, wearing sweaters and socks to ward off any residual chill. Use cool or warm water for the laundry instead of hot water, and consider hanging clothes outside to dry in good weather rather than using an electric or gas dryer. Opt for the basic cable television package rather than the deluxe version.

Include Utility Supplements

Instead of running air conditioners in the summer, consider installing ceiling fans or use table fans. Space heaters in cold weather can help reduce whole-house heating bills. Some people use wood burners or fireplaces in the winter to offset gas heating expenses.

Don’t let household necessities gobble up your monthly budget. A few simple steps like these can pare down those costly utility bills and save money for other important things.

Helping Teens Save Money For College

Helping Teens Save Money For College

Without a college degree, employment options are limited, so the majority of high school graduates will consider going on for a college education if they can afford it. College tuition costs across the nation are rising annually, making it increasingly difficult for parents to support their children’s post-secondary education. While financial aid is available at many institutions primarily through students filing the FAFSA application each year, competition is fierce, and most parents or students end up paying at least part of their education fees.

However, saving money for college can be difficult for teens, who are also learning to drive, buying a first car, and paying auto insurance as well as high school senior activity fees like prom and the senior trip. Although Mom and Dad may be helping with these costs, many teens are already working summer jobs or part-time during the school year to assist. Most families agree that college is a priority, so helping teens learn to save toward college expenses is important. Here are a few ways parents can guide their kids toward earning income for the college fund.

Fund-Matching

Few teenagers are farsighted enough to want to put away money for college. Asking them to deposit every fast food job paycheck into a savings account can reduce their motivation to work. Instead, parents can offer to match whatever amount of their earnings students choose to save toward college, whether it be twenty-five percent, fifty percent, etc. Fund-matching is a great incentive for young people as they watch their savings accounts grow quickly with the help of parents’ matching investment.

Creative Work

Instead of regular teenage jobs like lawn care or babysitting, encourage your teen to try a creative job. Landscape design is a step up from moving lawns, while tutoring is somewhat more prestigious than childcare. If your teen shows promise in a future occupation or creative enterprise, urge them to look for work in related fields. A love of books might translate into a part-time library job, while writing enjoyment could lead to writing freelance articles for young adult publications like Boys’ Life and other teen periodicals that often pay $50 to $100 per article.

Service Jobs

To help students become more community-minded while earning college money, suggest an environment-friendly service like recycling. Collecting aluminum, old tires, or even newspapers can rack up a fair amount of earnings to plump up the college fund while teaching teens the value of keeping neighborhoods clean and litter-free. Public service awareness is an important skill often taught in higher education, so this could be a helpful preparatory activity for college, as well.
Budgeting.

Teenagers should learn how to budget their earnings, no matter how meagre, before graduating high school. Teaching them the value of money and how to use credit wisely are life-long skills that can help to prepare them for college. Show them how to use a spreadsheet to chart their income and expenses, and how to plot a monthly budget and a yearly estimated forecast. As they assume more control over their finances, teens will begin to appreciate the opportunities and limits that come with income, and the role that saving for college plays in the process. Moreover, they may begin to look forward even more to college in understanding the increased earning potential a degree will give them.

High school students should gradually be given more authority over income that they generate or spend. Parents might even share some of the regular household information to illustrate broader budgeting principles. As they become accustomed to the big picture of earning, spending, and saving, teens will develop greater respect for the power of education and a future career.

10 Easy Ways to Save Money

10 Easy Ways to Save MoneyWhen you’ve stretched the monthly budget as far as it can go, chances are there are still more ways to save money and ease debit card strain. Check out the following tips and give them a try to put more money into the bank at the end of each month.

Negotiate Everything

Many things are negotiable, especially when you pay cash or promptly. From legal services to a new television or auto repairs, ask if a lower amount is acceptable or if any discounts apply.

Trade Services

Try to exchange skilled services with others that have what you need. For example, a neighbor mechanic could replace your squeaky brakes at a fraction of the cost in exchange for your sitting with the couple’s two children for an evening or two. If you’re good at record-keeping, you could prepare a friend’s taxes for filing in return for a couple of home-cooked meals, fresh or frozen.

Take a Class

Sign up for a local community college class or take one online to learn simple auto maintenance to take care of your car and avoid costly service fees. Learn cake decorating and start a side business.

Dine at Home

Cut back on eating out by planning a nice but simple dinner at home. Put on a pretty tablecloth and set the table as if for guests. Cook a tasty meal that you haven’t had for a while, and enjoy!

Drop Unneeded Services

Check your monthly utility bills to see if you are paying for unneeded services. Maybe you paid off that new cell phone but are still carrying the $7.99 insurance fee. Get rid of unused cable services. Reduce monthly trash pickup when the kids go away to college and trash dwindles by half.

Shop for Low-Cost Credit Cards.

Low-interest credit card offers are plentiful if your credit is in good standing. It’s not uncommon to find 0% interest for 12 to 18 months. Some come with a balance transfer fee, while others don’t even require that. Check with your bank and other preferred lenders to find a card that you can use without interest for an extended period of time.

Rearrange Monthly Payments

If you pay bills once a month, try to schedule your bills to come in about the same time to minimize the risk of overlooking those that arrive between pay periods. Vendors will often work with customers to change the due-by date to align with pay dates.

Downsize Your Home

If you no longer need the larger home where you currently live, sell it and move to a smaller place. The lawn will require less maintenance and machinery maintenance costs, and utilities will cost less. Use the equity recovered from the sale of your home to pay off other debts and make your monthly budget more comfortable.

Pay Bills Online

Many banks offer the convenience of paying bills online from your bank account. In addition to saving time, you’ll spend less on postage and envelopes, and can easily track payments.

Write a Debt Payoff Plan

Putting a plan in writing helps to make it more solid and realistic. Write a debt reduction plan and post it on the fridge or on your desk as a reminder. Color code your progress as an incentive to keep working at debt elimination, which will save you each month in the future!

With a few minor adjustments, you can save money each month or put a chunk in the bank towards savings. Start now and watch how quickly the savings add up!