60+ Clever Ways to Lower Your Household Bills and Save Money
Water bills, energy bills, cell phone bills—oh, my! Here’s how to cut costs on every household bill to yield big savings.
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Why pay more when you don’t have to?
We’re all looking for ways to save money, and there are a ton of tricks to help you keep more cash in your bank account—from figuring out the best time to pay your bills (and which bills you shouldn’t put on AutoPay) to negotiating certain household bills. But the very best thing you can do to lower your bills? Devise a budget and stick to it. “It doesn’t seem exciting, but it is the best way to save on household bills,” says Tanya Peterson, vice president of Freedom Financial Network. “It’s also the one thing people do least often when trying to save.”
To do that properly, you need to take a good, hard look at your current expenses and figure out how to bring down those numbers. Peterson suggests learning what your utilities actually cost and identifying what your individual utility usage patterns are. “Look at recent bills to find out the cost per gallon of water, per kilowatt of electricity, or per therm of natural gas,” she says. “Then focus your saving efforts where you and your family will save the most money.” But that’s just the first step. We tapped experts across all fields to round up the very best money-saving tips to lower everything from your electricity bills and grocery bills to your rent or mortgage. Trust us—these tiny changes will make a bigger difference than you realize.
Lower your mortgage
Refinance your mortgage. “With the interest rates that we’re seeing because of the pandemic, this is creating a ‘once in a lifetime’ chance to lock down or lower one’s interest rate and save a lot of money,” says Kevin Leibowitz, owner of Grayton Mortgage. “Thirty-year mortgage rates are below 3 percent, and 15-year mortgage rates are close to 2 percent.” Those may sound like tiny numbers, but they could translate into thousands in savings over the lifetime of your loan. When refinancing or buying a home, make sure you don’t make this mistake that could cost you thousands.
Make biweekly mortgage payments. “I recommend homeowners make biweekly mortgage payments if they can afford it,” says Andrew Latham, a certified personal finance counselor and the managing editor of SuperMoney.com. By paying half of your mortgage every two weeks, you’ll actually end up making the equivalent of 13 monthly mortgage payments a year—which helps you pay off your principal faster and decreases the amount of interest you’ll pay over the lifetime of your loan. “Although this is a modest increase in mortgage payments,” Latham explains, “it can help you save $34,724 in interest and repay the mortgage nearly five years early on a $200,000 mortgage with a 30-year term and a 5 percent interest rate.”
Lower your rent
Negotiate your monthly rent. Those payments may seem set in stone, but that’s not necessarily the case. “If you’re a renter, don’t be afraid to negotiate your monthly rent with your landlord,” says Taylor Burton, a family financial expert and the cofounder of Till Financial. “Chances are, a landlord will be willing to work with a respectful tenant who pays on time each month versus finding a new tenant.”
Sign your lease in fall or winter. “Most renters are looking to sign a lease in the late spring or summer upon graduation from school or before their children begin the next school year,” explains Justin Pogue, author of Rental Secrets. “Landlords know this and tend to charge higher prices during this time of the year. By waiting until late fall or winter, renters can save as much as 7 percent on their rent.”
Lower your grocery bill
Shop online to avoid impulse purchases. “Use online grocery services to avoid impulsive purchases, especially if you can’t shop without the kids,” suggests Tana Williams, founder of the website Debt Free Forties. “This tip can easily save $20 or more [per order], depending on how much they beg for different snacks.”
Head to the store on re-stock days. “Find out which day of the week your grocery store restocks and shop that morning,” says Williams. “You’ll find lots of discounted products they want to move so that they can restock with fresh items, such as produce, bakery items, or meat.”
Use a cash-back grocery app. “Use cash-back apps like Ibotta to get refunds on items you already purchase. They’re easy to use—just review and select the discounts you want to redeem before shopping,” says Williams. “Plus, they often link to your grocery rewards card, so you don’t have to scan and upload the receipt. It’s all automated, and it can save you hundreds. Just last month, I saved $45 using Ibotta for items I already buy.”
Get a rain check. “Many people use coupons and shop sales, but some forget (or don’t know) about rain checks,” says Erica Seppala, a financial analyst at Merchant Maverick. “If there’s a great sale but the item is out of stock, ask an employee about issuing a rain check, which will allow you to return later to purchase the item at the discounted price.” Check out this list of the best sources for online coupons to find grocery deals near you.
Buy smarter by the pound. “When food is priced by weight, buy only how much you need. That might mean buying the smaller head of cauliflower so you can eat it all before it goes bad,” says Bri Bell, founder of the Frugal Minimalist Kitchen. “It’s also a good idea to take off extra leaves if possible (like the outer leaves of the cauliflower) when paying by weight so you’re not paying for parts you’re not going to eat anyway.” Also make sure you know how to stock your fridge if you want your food to last.
Shop seasonally. “Learn what produce is in season, and try planning menus around that,” suggests Tanya Peterson, a consumer finance expert and vice president of Freedom Financial Network. “[By doing this] you can generally save up to 15 percent.” Shopping at farms, orchards, and farmers’ markets is a good idea, too. “You can often find great savings, especially if you don’t need perfect-looking fruit,” she says.
Grind your own meat. “Ground meat is expensive, but you can save yourself up to a dollar per pound or more just by grinding meat yourself,” says certified financial planner Dennis J. O’Keefe, owner of Successful Money Strategies, Inc. “Buy in bulk when prices are low and you can cut $2 to $3 per pound off of your ground-meat costs.” Here are more kitchen gadgets you’ll wish you had years ago.
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Lower your home-supplies shopping bill
Stop buying name-brand products. “From toilet paper to cereal, most name-brand items are similar to the generic store brands and can have huge savings,” says Scott Henderson, an accredited financial counselor and budgeting expert with Qube Money. It’s also a good idea to buy these 10 things at the dollar store.
Skip disposable, single-use products. “Reduce single-use items like plastic baggies, paper towels, paper napkins, and plastic wrap,” suggests Bell. “A typical family could easily spend several dollars per day on disposables! Why not spend that money on good food instead?” Plus, this sustainable swap is a lot better for the environment. Find out what one woman who’s been plastic-free for years uses instead.
Make your own cleaning products. “Items such as household cleaners, laundry detergent, and dish soap can add up quickly, but you can save money by making your own at home,” says Seppala. “Recipes for everything from homemade shampoo to buckets of laundry soap are just a Google search away. While you may have to invest in initial supplies, the overall savings can be staggering.” Here’s a list of homemade cleaners to get you started.
Carolin Schild/EyeEm/Getty Images
Lower your water bill
Use aerators and low-flow showerheads. “By using aerators and low-flow showerheads, you can reduce your water usage, which will lower your water consumption, thus saving you money,” says Michael Outar, owner of Savebly.com. “These devices are really easy to install, and they are a great investment because they will essentially pay for themselves over time.” And if you have a drip, take care of it ASAP—here’s how much water a leaky faucet wastes over time.
Take faster showers. “According to the Washington Post, a standard showerhead uses 2.5 gallons of water every minute,” Outar says. “So, a simple way to lower your water bill is to take faster showers.”
Don’t use the toilet as a wastebasket. “Every time you flush a facial tissue or other small bits of trash, five to seven gallons of water is wasted,” says Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company.
Stop pre-washing dishes. “New dishwashers are powerful enough to clean soiled plates, so skip the pre-rinse to save water,” says Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, a Neighborly Company. While you’re at it, he suggests using the air-dry setting in favor of heat drying for extra savings. If you’re looking to save time as well as money, skip these household chores.
Reuse your cup. An easy way to lower your water bill? “Drink from the same cup or water bottle throughout the day,” says Shimek. “This prevents dirtying as many glasses and reduces the number of dishwasher loads you run each week.”
Lower your air-conditioning and heating bills
Use your fan more. “A ceiling fan helps to circulate air in your home, meaning that the coldest air doesn’t end up sitting just above your floor, where it does no one any good,” says Ryan Schultz, vice president of product and solutions at Cinch Home Services. “In combination with an air conditioner, a fan can make a room feel significantly colder with less AC power,” he says. That, of course, can help you save on summer utility bills.
Invest in heavy curtains. “Heavy curtains can be an extremely useful way to regulate the temperature in your home, as much of the heat that comes into a home enters in the form of sunlight,” Schultz explains. “During the day—particularly when you aren’t at home—close your curtains to prevent light from heating your home like an oven,” he says, adding that this can help keep electricity costs down.
Apply window film. Brad Roberson, president of Glass Doctor, a Neighborly company, says window film will help block UVA and UVB rays from warming the air inside your home, which means your AC unit won’t have to work quite as hard to keep your home cool.
Service your AC regularly. “A well-maintained AC unit performs significantly more efficiently than one that hasn’t been serviced recently,” explains Schultz. “It’s important to replace your AC filter regularly—monthly is best.” You should also regularly check to make sure that ducts are well insulated and clean. “Not only will this help to keep your electricity bills lower,” Schultz says, “but it will also keep your appliance from working too hard, potentially giving it a longer life.” Here are more ways you’re accidentally shortening the life of your appliances.
Fire up the grill. “Cooking a full meal in the kitchen can heat up your home by as much as two to three degrees, making your AC work that much harder to adjust,” explains Kevin R. Chancellor, a financial advisor at JAG Financial Services. So, grilling as much of your food outside during the summer months as possible can significantly lower your air conditioning bill.
Insulate your attic. “This is one of the best ways to lower heating costs in your home,” says Peterson. You can expect an annual savings of $400 or more if you insulate a 1,000-square-foot attic that previously was not insulated, she says.
Check for drafts. “Inspect your home for drafty spots where cold (or hot) air can enter,” Peterson suggests. “Install weather stripping around windows and doors, and door sweeps, to block drafts.” Another unexpected source of drafts: “Check outlets, locks, air conditioning units, and even recessed light fixtures for air leaks,” she says.
Upgrade to a smart thermostat. “Swap that average thermostat for a smart thermostat like Google Nest,” says energy expert Cisco DeVries, CEO of OhmConnect. “Smart thermostats can save you an average of 10 to 12 percent on heating and 15 percent on cooling—that’s nearly $145 annually.” While you’re at it, check out these other smart home devices that are worth every penny.
Change your air filters. If you have central air, replacing the air filters inside your home regularly (every one to three months is the rule of thumb) will help your HVAC run more efficiently—which can mean a reduction in your AC bill, says Luke Caldwell, who partners with American Standard Heating & Air Conditioner. Air filters are typically located behind a vent in the wall or floor, but if you’re having trouble locating them, just ask your HVAC repair pro to point them out and guide you on which type of replacements to buy.
Besiki Kavtaradze/Getty Images
Lower your electricity bill
Unplug unused gadgets. “Even in the off mode, many electronics continuing consuming energy—especially office equipment like desktop computers and printers, as well as your entertainment system with your cable box and large-screen TV,” says Andrea Woroch, a money-saving and finance expert. “Get in the habit of unplugging gadgets you aren’t using, from your smartphone charger to your coffee maker to your computer and TV.” Otherwise you’re wasting money without even realizing it.
Switch to LED bulbs. “One way to save on electricity is to switch your old light bulbs to newer, more energy-efficient LED bulbs,” says Seppala. Sure, it’ll be a bit of an investment upfront, but “one thing that many people don’t know is that many utility companies offer free or heavily discounted bulbs to customers,” Seppala explains. “Not only will you save money on your new bulbs, but your home will be more energy-efficient (and your bill will be lower) in the months ahead.”
Get an energy audit. “It also doesn’t hurt to ask your utility provider about an energy audit,” Seppala says. “Many utility companies offer this service for free and can advise you on ways to make your home more energy-efficient. While some methods may require an initial investment, the long-term savings can be in the thousands. Think installing new energy-efficient windows.” FYI, here’s how much electricity each item in your house uses.
Save on hot water. “Set the temperature on the hot water heater at 120 degrees,” says Peterson. (Or, if you have one that just has a scale, try turning it down a notch.) “In doing so, you’ll generally save about 10 percent of water-heating costs,” she explains—and you’ll still have plenty of hot water.
Run appliances at night. “Most utility providers have lower rates late at night or early in the morning,” says Outar. “So if possible, it’s best to use your appliances late at night or early in the morning to save costs. You can run your dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer at these times to get a lower rate to save you money.”
Wash laundry with cold water. “Wash clothes in cold water—which most detergents are designed for today—when possible, and save up to 90 percent of the energy your washing machine uses,” says Peterson. This tiny change can also help to reduce your carbon footprint at home, so it’s beneficial in more ways than one.
Ditch the dryer. “The summer is the perfect time to get in the habit of drying clothes outdoors and forgo the dryer,” says Peterson. While it might sound old-school, it’s worth the extra effort: “In many households, the dryer uses more energy than any appliance other than the furnace or AC.”
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Lower your subscription services bill
Consolidate your subscription services. “If you don’t actually use Hulu, Disney+, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, cancel what’s going to waste each month,” says Burton. Or go in on a subscription with a few friends or family members and split the costs. Here are some facts that you probably never knew about streaming services.
Let go of under-utilized subscriptions. Kenny Senour, a certified financial planner at Millennial Wealth Management, suggests making a list of all your current subscriptions. “In the next column, note the monthly cost, and in the third column, try to estimate how many times you’ve used that subscription the past few weeks,” he says. “Identify one or two of the lowest-utilized subscriptions and consider canceling them altogether. If you change your mind, you can always restart the subscription, but at least you’ll be increasing your monthly cash flow in the meantime.”
Share your subscription with friends overseas. There’s a limit to how many screens you can have running on the same account at the same time, but there’s actually a way around this. “Share your Netflix subscription with overseas friends living in different time zones,” suggests financial consultant Adam Garcia, CEO of The Stock Dork. “If you have shared the subscription between [only] two friends right now because of limited screens, you can divide it between three to save more money, since overseas friends will probably never be watching at the same time as you.” Reward yourself for your smart savings by putting up your feet and streaming the best new comedy movies of the year.
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Lower your auto bills
Do your research before getting gas. “Don’t just go to the first gas station you see,” says Rory Joyce, senior director of product at Credit Karma Auto. “Apps like GasBuddy and Waze help you compare prices of the gas stations around you to find the best prices.” That can end up saving you some serious cash over time.
Join a loyalty rewards program. “Sign up for grocery loyalty programs and fuel up at partner gas stations where you can redeem points to lower your gas price,” suggests Woroch. Here are more ways to save money on gas.
Refinance your auto loan. “For many Americans, the car is their largest and most costly asset, so refinancing your auto loan is a potential money-saving option that many borrowers don’t think of,” explains Joyce, who says that Credit Karma members who refinanced their auto loan saved nearly $3,000 in total interest over the life of the loan. “That is an average savings of $55 per month,” he says.
Raise your auto insurance deductible. “A relatively easy way to reduce your monthly insurance costs is to increase your deductible,” says Lauren Blair, a finance expert with FreeAdvice.com. “On average, policyholders may be able to save up to 10 percent in premium costs by raising their deductible by $500.”
Keep up with car repairs. “It can be easy to put off car repairs and maintenance—they take time and money. But if you don’t stay on it, you could end up with higher costs in the long run,” Joyce warns. “For example, if your tires aren’t properly aligned, you could lose some of your fuel efficiency. Getting regular car checkups can help you catch issues like these so your fuel economy doesn’t suffer.”
Get to know your mechanic. But, of course, you want to make sure you really need those repairs in the first place. “Find a trusted mechanic from a local shop and be loyal to that person,” suggests Chancellor. “They will know your vehicle and its history, which can save you big dollars on diagnostic costs when parts break down. Plus, they will give you much better deals for maintenance for being a loyal customer. The only time I use a dealer mechanic shop is if my vehicle is under warranty or it is a very unique repair.” Watch out for these common car repair scams.
Check your tire pressure. Not only is it a safety risk, “But under-inflated tires can also significantly reduce your gas mileage,” says Joyce. “The tire maker Bridgestone says for every one-pound drop in tire pressure on all four wheels of your car, you could be lowering your gas mileage by 0.3 percent.” FYI, these are the tires that car experts buy for their own cars.
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Lower your lawn care bill
Drop your pest-control service. “Pest control services for insects can be a waste,” says Khari Washington, a real estate and mortgage broker. “Using home-defense products that you spray once a month works just as good as a pest-control company.” The key to success? “Spray regularly,” she says. “Most people don’t spray regularly, so they think they need a service.” Make sure to brush up on these chemical-free ways to get rid of household pests.
Don’t water midday. “Make sure that you don’t water your lawn in the middle of the day, as most of this water will just evaporate and end up being wasted,” says Donna Atanasova, a member of the marketing team at myPOS. “An alternative solution is to consider watering your plants in the early mornings and evenings to avoid water wastage.”
Jasenka Arbanas/Getty Images
Lower your home security bill
Skip the full-home system. “Many of the new home security companies like Ring are much cheaper than the older companies,” says Washington. “Finding a company that ships you the system and then you put up the sensors can be as cheap as $99 per year…instead of $50 per month from many security companies.” Not sure where to start? These are the best home security systems, according to experts.
Get quotes from local companies. “I have found that using an independent local home security company saved me over $20 a month in monitoring fees versus a larger company I called,” says Chancellor. “Over time, that adds up. So, as with any service for your home, always get quotes from not only the larger companies but also the smaller ones.” An added bonus: “Having home security helps you save money on your homeowner’s insurance, so make sure you let your insurance carrier know if and when you have one installed.”
Pay based on the number of entry points, not square footage. “When signing up for home security, know the number of entry points in your home—especially if the security company is considering the size of your home for pricing,” says Leslie Tayne, a debt solution attorney. “Unless your home is very large and you wish to run concealed hardwiring, having a large home shouldn’t affect the price of your home security package.” While you’re at it, ask your security company if any discounts are available. “Many security companies offer discounts to military, veterans, seniors, and prepaid discounts,” Tayne notes.
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Lower your home improvement bill
Get multiple bids. “For home improvement projects, make sure to get more than one bid. Sometimes, you have no clue how much something can cost to fix, and getting multiple bids will help you see what the true cost should be,” says Washington. You might also want to take a look at these clever home improvement ideas under $200.
Check Facebook Marketplace. “Check your local Facebook pages and see if anyone is offering the services you need for less than the bigger companies,” suggests Wilson Coffman, president of Coffman Retirement Group.
Think repurposed instead of new. “One way to save a great deal of money on home improvements is to look for the materials you need on local marketplace sites. If you can repurpose or reuse materials, it is a huge savings,” says Chancellor. “There also may be secondhand shops in your area that keep materials that have been discarded or overstocked by companies for home improvement projects.”
Tax advantage of tax benefits. “One of the lesser-known ways to decrease your home expenses and increase your property value at the same time is to take advantage of loans, grants, and tax benefits to renovate your home,” says Carter Seuthe, CEO of Credit Summit. “For example, do you own an especially old home? It may be on your state’s register of historic places, in which case you can get tax benefits to maintain its appearance. Many state and local governments also offer home improvement loans at below-market rates, in some cases even lower than inflation.”
Lower your pet care bill
Find affordable pet sitters. “Your local vet likely offers pet boarding, but costs can be tremendous and they’re not always the most comfortable accommodations for your fur baby,” says Woroch. “This is why I recommend searching for affordable pet sitters near you through Rover.com. This can help you save on this added expense, and they can also give your dog more personalized and comfortable care.”
Swap instead of buying. “Find local dog groups that you can do toy swaps with,” suggests Coffman. “Dogs can get tired of their own toys and often love getting something new with another dog’s scent on it.”
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Lower your cell phone bill
Shop around. “Make sure that you’re getting the best rate by shopping around with various cell phone providers,” says Seppala. “Ask a representative about the types of discounts you may be eligible to receive. You can get discounts for anything from being a military veteran to being a member of a local PTA.”
Check for additional perks. “Some cell providers offer additional perks for signing up,” Seppala notes. “For example, some providers offer free subscriptions to services like Netflix or Disney+, which could save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.” On the flip side, be aware of the ways your cell phone company may be overcharging you.
Lower your overall household budget
Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate! You may not realize it, but many bills are negotiable, says Burton. “Call up your Wi-Fi provider and let them know their competitor is offering a better monthly rate,” she says. “Chances are, they’ll meet you in the middle.”
Bring in a negotiator. “If you’re looking for a way to save money on regular household bills like cable TV, Internet, or cell phones, I’d recommend using a service like Bill Fixers,” says Michael Shea, a certified financial planner in Nashville, Tennessee. “They will negotiate your bills on your behalf to see if they can get you lower monthly rates, which may save you hundreds of dollars per month.”
Try the 50-30-20 rule. “If creating a budget to cut corners and save on bills seems daunting, consider first trying out the 50-30-20 rule—a budgeting method that suggests you spend 50 percent of your income on necessities, including rent and other bills, and 30 percent on fun,” suggests Colleen McCreary, Chief People Officer at Credit Karma. “The remaining 20 percent is for paying down debt or for savings expenditures.” It works, she explains, because “the larger buckets make it easier to see how you can spend and save the money you have wisely, and you can change the percentage totals based on your lifestyle and financial goals.” FYI, these are the best times to find the best deals throughout the year.
Watch your convenience spending. “This kind of spending includes food delivery fees, Ubers, and at-home services like manicures and on-site pet grooming,” Burton explains. “These services might seem small, but they add up over time.” Keeping tabs on your monthly convenience spending can ensure that you’re not going overboard and making poor spending decisions.
Use the right credit card. One great way to save on groceries is to use the right credit card, says Brian Martucci of Money Crashers. For example, he says, “the American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card gets you 6 percent cash back on the first $6,000 in grocery purchases each year. It also comes with an unlimited 3 percent cash back on gas.” Just be sure you know these credit card rules to never break first.