5 Pro Tips To Lower Your Utility Bills For Free

5 Pro Tips To Lower Your Utility Bills For Free by aurorameyer.com

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written for our readers.

Utility bills are usually accompanied by a sinking feeling in your heart and the inevitable lamenting that it’s getting more and more expensive to keep your lights on. What’s more, COVID-19 has had everyone locked inside for weeks, forcing you to use more electricity and gas at home than you would normally do. No wonder that one in three US households struggles to pay their monthly utility bill.

Is there a way to reduce the costs without compromising on feeling comfortable at home, especially when your home is also now your office? The obvious solution would be to install solar panels or buy energy-efficient appliances, but they all cost money.

Fortunately, there are a few budget-saving techniques for you to try – completely for free.

1. Reduce your Hot Water Temperature

No one likes cold water when you shower. But if your water heater thermostat is set at 140ºF by default (which they often are!), you might not only be burning through $61 annually in standby heat losses but potentially also facing a safety hazard—scalding. Reducing your water heater temperature to 120ºF will not only save you money but will slow mineral build-up and corrosion in your water heater and pipes.

2. Insulate Your Water Tank

While you are in the bathroom, make sure you also insulate your water tank. When on standby, your uninsulated water tank is responsible for 25% to 45% energy losses. One of the clever and surprisingly cheap ways to save energy is wrapping a blanket around your tank to stop the heat from escaping.

3. Stop Pre-Rinsing Dishes

This one might very well blow your mind. Most of the newer model dishwashers have pre-built sensors to check how dirty your plates are to determine how long a cycle is needed to clean them. By pre-rinsing your plates beforehand, you might be tricking the sensor into using lighter than optimal cycle and additionally, you might be wasting 6000 gallons of water annually.

4. Switch Electric Suppliers

There are currently 18 U.S. states with competitive energy marketplaces, driving the electricity rates in these deregulated states below the U.S. average. Residents are free to switch electric suppliers and reduce the price they pay for electricity. Switching suppliers is easy, secure and it often involves only a few clicks of your computer mouse. In addition, most suppliers offer additional perks to win you over – attractive rewards programs, complimentary smart home devices, or 100% renewable energy.

5. Use Free Electricity

Speaking of perks, many electric suppliers offer incentives and discounts to customers willing to switch their power usage to off-peak hours. By making small adjustments to your daily routines, like running your washing machine or a dishwasher at night, instead of during the day, the energy you use in those hours might come with a zero-price tag. Get in touch with your power company to see if they offer free-nights or free-weekends electricity plans. Since we are stuck home all day anyway, we might as well save money, right?

 

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Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat Review

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written for our readers.

Car seats and booster seats are a fact of life for parents of children under 100 pounds. One car seat can make a car seem sizably smaller. Two or three in a compact car is nearly impossible. We’ve used the Graco brand since 2014 and have always been very happy.

In this Graco extend2fit review, from CarSeatMom.com you can review the features, recalls, pros and cons of the Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat.

The Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Car Seat was designed to solve a variety of concerns that parents have when selecting a car seat for their kiddos.

The biggest selling feature of the Extend2Fit® is an extendable tray that gives kids an extra five inches of rear-facing legroom as they grow.

Five inches doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can make a huge difference in comfort level.  It may even make kids a little happier about riding in a rear-facing position longer.

Additionally, Graco® upped their game by extending the rear-facing weight limit in the Extend2Fit® models up to 50 pounds.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that all children under the age of one ride in a rear-facing position.  This rule can be tricky to follow in an infant car seat because babies usually outgrow the infant seat by eight or nine months old.

The Extend2Fit® convertible car seat solves this problem with higher weight and height limits keeping kids in the rear-facing position well past their second birthday.

Once kids outgrow the rear-facing limits, the Extend2Fit® can convert into a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness.

The weight range for this mode is between 22 and 65 pounds and can be used for kids up to 49 inches tall.  Remember, any child under 22 pounds has to ride in a rear-facing position.

To read the rest, you’ll have to visit the review.

No Spend January 2019 – Final Update

As I mentioned earlier this month, we implement a no spend January (or another month) at least once a year.  It’s February 1 and time to access how the month went. Spoiler: We failed but it wasn’t a complete loss.

To review, below are the “rules” we used to give us structure for the month.

We can spend money on necessities, such as:

  • gasoline
  • groceries
  • rent or mortgage
  • utilities
  • insurance (car, home, etc.)
  • childcare
  • other fixed expenses (for us this is Netflix, Roku and iTunes)
  • halfway through we had to add a car repair*

We avoid spending money on:

  • dining out (lunches or dinner)
  • clothes shopping
  • trips to the movie theater, amusement park, museums, etc.
  • coffee shops (see dining out)
  • Amazon purchases (we do make heavy use of the save for later feature)

For us, a no spend month boils down to: is this a want or a need. If it is a need, then that’s the end of it. If it is a want, then we wait and if it is something we can live without for the 31 days, we reevaluate if it is something that can wait longer.

When I wrote the first update 10 days in, we’d already spent unplanned money on an 80 percent off sale at our local craft store for $11 to make this special snowflake wreath craft during a snowstorm and surprise day off school.

We saved a golden ticket for a free meal at a restaurant and used that to celebrate a milestone event. It was fun going to a place we don’t usually go to. We did pay tip so the leftover $10 went to that but it still means aside from the necessary expenses and J’s trip, we’re meeting our goals.

But after that, it sort of went a bit downhill. Several of the expenses listed below were not necessities. In fact, if I’m being honest, only three were necessities.

  • An online game charge of $22 + $50
  • Pizza for New Year’s Day football watching with friends $30
  • McDonald’s lunch on the road $10
  • Chik FIl A when J wanted to spoil Miss A for a great night $16
  • Chik Fil A (lunch when a friend had to bail and I couldn’t get home in time to make something for myself ) $10
  • A lunch meeting $11
  • Post swimming doughnuts $11
  • One of our favorite restaurants to celebrate a birthday with our family $86
  • JoAnn’s (so my mom could knit Miss A another winter hat and me another scarf, thanks mom!)  $18
  • Special Day celebration at an indoor play place during a blizzard for Miss A $14
  • Amazon Movie (one we are certain we owned but couldn’t find, so had to purchase the digital download again) $10
  • Home Depot $292 to replace the snowblower we sold (so this really equals $0!)
  • Lowe’s (Miss A’s closet door has needed to be replaced since we moved in and we needed to replace to light fixtures that weren’t working, this would have been a LOT higher but we had gift cards to use) $285
  • Car repair (some of it was scheduled maintenance but it still made an impact on our plans to spend minimally) $275
  • Once Upon a Child (I sold a few things and Miss A grew and needed new pants) $17

Added up that was about $865. If you subtract the special day celebration, car repairs and clothes as necessities, it was $559. If we take out the closet repairs, it’s a much more palatable $274. Not our best no spend month but not the worst. Even with the unexpected expenses we still ended up spending about $250 less than our average, which is absolutely something to celebrate!

In reviewing the expenses and where we failed, our Achilles heel is dining out which accounted for $174 this month. It’s something to work on for our family. So while it wasn’t the best no spend month, it was a good reset. In fact, we’ve decided to keep it up through February 2019!

Snow ice cream

It’s been almost non-stop snow here for the last three days. As much as I love snow, this is wet and heavy and too much for our snow blower. Which means lots is shoveling. Plus, the power went out for 17 hours which was not fun. The power is back on and we are back to enjoying the winter wonderland.

Plus it’s the perfect snow for snow ice cream!

Unlike other recipes, this one is super simple and just two ingredients: Snow and maple syrup.

Scoop the clean snow (we usually put a bowl out while it is still snowing) into a bowl, pour a few drizzles of your favorite maple syrup and stir.

That’s it. Really. Get a spoon and enjoy!

No Spend January

Sometimes it takes a little restriction to make you think about where you are spending your time and resources.

We’ve chosen to implement a no spend January to get our finances back on track after the holiday season. It works for us in the same ways Dry January and January Clean up works for others.

This is the second time officially going spending free for a month though we have gone for zero spend days and weeks in the past. There are lots of tricks and tips I’ve used to make it just as fun as our regular spending months. A new challenge this year is the four-year-old is well aware that we aren’t eating out in the same way and she’s not getting extra surprises, so we’ve had to do a lot more talking about budgets and expenses and needs and wants this time around. She’s learning about delayed gratification and we are relearning that right along with her.

The following are the “rules.” Of course, these are flexible to meet your needs.

You can spend money only on necessities:

  • gasoline
  • groceries
  • rent or mortgage
  • utilities
  • insurance (car, home, etc.)
  • childcare
  • other fixed expenses (for us this is Netflix, Roku and iTunes)

You aren’t spending money on:

  • no dining out (lunches or dinner)
  • no clothes shopping
  • no trips to the movie theater, amusement park, museums, etc.
  • no coffee shops (see dining out)
  • no Amazon purchases (we do make heavy use of the save for later feature)

For us, a no spend month boils down to: is this a want or a need. If it is a need, then that’s the end of it. If it is a want, then we wait and if it is something we can live without for the 31 days, we reevaluate if it is something that can wait longer.

We use what are now the extra funds to pay down some debt (I still see you student loans, more than 10 years later) and save for our planned activities later in the year. Knowing the extra amounts have a home makes it a little easier and a bit like a game to see how much we can add to these two buckets in a month.

Though our daughter is disappointed we aren’t having the occasional meal at her favorite play place or beloved restaurant that share a name with her favorite Disney Junior character, she is thoroughly enjoying newly created movie nights at home and making the regular dinners special by eating by candlelight.

We aren’t adding extra things to the grocery cart and are trying to stick to a decreased grocery budget. When the inevitable whining about not getting to add something to the cart or getting to go out to eat happens, we are talking with her about how we are working to save money for fun things we have planned later in the year. That we are saving and saving is as important as spending. More importantly, that sticking to a budget can be fun!

Ten days in, how are we doing?

Confession, we’ve done better in the past. J had a work trip and had to spend extra on meals while he was traveling. Some of this will be reimbursed but some of it won’t. I caved on an 80 percent off sale at our local craft store to make this special snowflake wreath craft.

BUT in this specific situation, I sold a light fixture on a local Facebook swap and am still ahead about $10, so that’s a win!

We saved a golden ticket for a free meal at a restaurant and used that to celebrate a milestone event. It was fun going to a place we don’t usually go to. We did pay tip so the leftover $10 went to that but it still means aside from the necessary expenses and J’s trip, we’re meeting our goals.

We’ve learned in the past that no spend months lead to less spending in the next months as we are all better able to articulate is this a want or a need and the art of delayed gratification.

Are you doing a detox in an area of your life? Let us know how it’s going! I’ll update on our no spend after January 31!