Summer Spending Habits: How to Keep Things in Check

The heat of summer has arrived, and hand in hand with the rising temperatures comes a rise in utility bills. It’s no secret that running our air conditioning, watering our lawns and running heat-generating appliances can all cause a visible change in our monthly payments over the span of a couple of months. There are a number of simple things you can do to help shave some of that extra money off your bills and put it back into your wallet.

Watering your yard is a common practice in the summertime, as long periods of drought can cause your beautiful green grass to fade into an unattractive shade of brown. According to an article from the longtime publication Popular Mechanics, flower beds, shrubs, gardens and trees will retain moisture better with a thick layer of mulch around them. By doing this, you won’t need to water as often. What’s more, it helps block out those pesky weeds. If you have a sprinkler system, it’s also important to make sure your sprinklers aren’t set up to spray the driveway, street or house. The best times for watering are early in the morning or later on in the day (and only once per day). Also, it is best to water when temperatures are cooler — the water doesn’t evaporate as quickly before it can soak in. Skip rinsing leaves and grass clippings off of your driveway with the garden hose, as it’s an unnecessary way to waste water — use a leaf blower, rake, or wide push broom instead to brush the clippings back onto the grass. Last but not least, if you have an automatic sprinkler system at your house, consider installing a rain sensor that will automatically shut down the system during a rainstorm. They’re easy to install and can be found at Home Depot, Lowe’s or Amazon. They’ll run you about $20 but will help you save in the long run.

Electric and gas bills can also take a leap in the summer months. According to an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) article, running heat-generating appliances like ovens and dryers early in the morning or later in the evening can help keep your utility bill down. Depending on where you live, you may even be able to get away with not running them at all. Instead of running your dryer, consider using a clothesline, which can save you upward of $100 per year. It’s also wise to consider replacing your incandescent lights with CFL or LED light bulbs. They’re more expensive upfront, but like the rain sensor for your sprinkler system, they’ll save you money in the long run, and not just during the summer months. LEDs can last up to 25 times longer than a traditional incandescent bulb and use up to 75% less energy.

Last but not least, let’s not forget about air conditioning systems — one of the true luxuries of summer. It’s no secret that the trade-off for having air conditioning is a sometimes alarming rise in your monthly bill. Simple tips like running ceiling fans and closing curtains and blinds can help cut down on that cost, but also keep in mind that air conditioning systems operate better at full speed during longer stretches of time. That means dialing it to a lower temperature when you return home from work or vacation will save you more money than having it run on a cycle while you’re away. Always set your thermostat to the highest temperature you can tolerate to save the most money. You can save 10% a year on your cooling bills just by setting your thermostat seven to 10 degrees higher for eight hours each day. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends aiming for an indoor temperature of 78 degrees when you’re at home.

When it comes to saving on utility bills, the power is in your hands — and sometimes, even literally. Investing in a gadget such as a power meter (available for about $20) can also help you plan ways to save on bills. These devices allow you to track which appliances use the most energy. Once you have that information, you can make a proactive attempt to adjust your usage accordingly.

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