University of Illinois Extension

Strategies for Spending Less

Utilities and Household Maintenance

  • Maintain and clean your furnace regularly.
  • Find and fix air leaks around windows, doors, foundation, electrical outlets, exhaust fans and attic openings.
  • Install storm windows and doors, or put up plastic sheeting to reduce heat loss.
  • Adjust the thermostat setting by five degrees and compensate for comfort with clothing. Heating and cooling are the most expensive utility costs.
  • Insulate ceilings, exterior walls, under floors, heat ducts and hot water pipes. You may qualify for programs that insulate your home. Check Community Agencies That Can Help for information.
  • Select energy efficient light bulbs, tubes and fixtures when replacements are made. Use compact florescent light bulbs (CFL) or other fluorescent bulbs wherever possible.
  • Turn off unused lights.
  • Close doors to unused rooms and shut off heat/air conditioning to those areas.
  • Hang clothes to dry instead of using a clothes dryer.
  • Take shorter showers.
  • Make only emergency long-distance telephone calls. If possible, make calls when rates are lower. Check with your phone company for their rates. See if you are on the lowest rate calling plan. Are there extra features you pay for that you can eliminate such as call waiting? Pre-paid phone card may be even cheaper. Some families use only cell phones and have dropped their land-line phones.
  • You also may want to investigate alternative long-distance services. Compare the prices of the various phone companies’ long distance services to see if there is a lower cost option.
  • Consider writing letters or sending emails instead of making long-distance phone calls.
  • Give up cable television connections that increase your monthly bill.
  • Learn to do simple home repairs such as replacing washers in faucets and repairing damaged electric cords, torn window screens or broken window panes.
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