By Sarah Brown
Ah, spring. A time of renewal. A time to put out the old and bring in the new. Many people have spring cleaning rituals they go through each year, tidying up their homes and cycling out old stuff that doesn’t get used. Why not do the same for your bills?
Spring cleaning your bills can be as simple as turning the thermostat up a few degrees to save on electricity or switching cable providers. Let’s look at a few great ways to get those monthly bills down.
1. Invest in a Programmable Thermostat
Heating and air conditioning can be a major source of wasted electricity. Programmable thermostats can help keep your home at the right temperature when you’re there and reduce energy use when you’re not. They’re also just plain convenient.
Max Robinson, a writer for Turnbull & Scott Heating, says, “Investing in a programmable thermostat is one of the simplest ways to save money on your heating, as you set your heating to turn on and off at specific times throughout the day.”
You could also take it a step further and go for a smart thermostat that learns your temperature preferences and automatically adjusts when you’re away from home. These thermostats may save you quite a bit in monthly energy use, though some models are a bit pricey up front.
2. Keep Your Fridge Running at Peak Performance
Refrigerators and freezers are another big source of energy use. To curb that waste, make sure to keep the doors open for the shortest amount of time possible and always double-check that you’ve closed them completely. It’s easy to have something inside the fridge prevent the door from sealing, which can lead to a lot of wasted electricity as the appliance struggles to keep your food cold.
Lauren Haynes, a home cleaning expert at Star Domestic Cleaners, has a few more tips: “Regular defrosting is a must, as well as avoiding putting hot food in it or exposing the appliance to a direct sunlight. . . These things will help your fridge or freezer maintain [a consistent] temperature, which will lead to smoother energy-efficient work regardless of the season.”
3. Shop Around for Cheaper Energy Providers
If you happen to live in a deregulated area, you may have a choice of several different energy providers, so shop around. Don’t stick with a company simply because you’ve always used it—you could save a significant amount of money every month after a switch.
“You can easily save 25 percent or more on your monthly energy costs just by shopping electric suppliers,” says Kelly Bedrich, co-founder of ElectricityPlans.com. “Customers can reduce their rates from as much as 15 cents/kWh to as little as 7 cents/kWh. Changing electricity providers requires almost no effort and zero change in lifestyle.”
You can’t go wrong with this one. Again, though, only certain areas will be eligible. Check out this map of deregulated states and see if this is an option for you.
4. Negotiate a Lower Rate on Your Cable Bill
If you like your cable provider but wish the prices were just a little lower, you’ll love this tip. Many people never think to negotiate with their current cable company, but it’s always worth trying.
“Nowadays, with competition from other cable, satellite, and fiber providers—as well as consumers being able to cut the cord and leave cable altogether—providers are needing to be more accommodating,” says Rob Caiello, vice president of Marketing at Allconnect. “When it comes to negotiating a cable bill, a kind request will go a long way in helping you get a better deal. . .The representatives usually have more flexibility than they initially let on.”
5. Switch to a Different TV Provider
If your cable company just won’t budge on pricing, it might be time to consider switching. No matter where you live, there will almost always be another option for getting television. Many people don’t realize that satellite TV providers aren’t as tied to the boundaries drawn up by cable monopolies. These providers can often get you service even in remote or very rural areas that only have one main cable provider.
“You’d really be surprised how much you can save by shopping around, especially if you let the representative know that you’re looking at competitors,” says Paul McHardy, a representative from USDish. “And often, you don’t have to give up any of your favorite channels in the switch. Although there may be slight programming differences, most providers will have the most common channels covered.”
6. Cancel Unused Subscriptions
Many of us have old subscriptions we no longer need. Maybe you get a magazine every month and immediately toss it. Or maybe you subscribed to a service like Hulu to watch one show and just never canceled. These unused subscriptions could be adding up to a big expense.
“People spend an average of $512/year on unwanted subscriptions, often because they don't even realize they're signed up to those services,” according to a representative from Truebill. That’s a big chunk of change. As part of your spring cleaning, look at the services you subscribe to and decide which ones you really want to keep.
These tips will get you off to a great start with spring cleaning your bills and getting your expenses under control. Make it a regular part of your spring routine and see just how much you can save.