7 Ways to Be Energy Conscious – And Save on Utilities

We all know how important it is to be conscious of our energy consumption and minimize our carbon footprint. Not only is it good for the planet, but it can benefit our wallets, too, as energy bills sky-rocket with heat waves, droughts, record-breaking snowfall and artic temperatures. Fortunately, it’s easy to find little ways to save money and reduce your energy consumption. And if you’re currently living in dorms or apartments and don’t have to worry as much about bills or home maintenance, it still helps to develop energy-saving habits early on – and practice lowering your energy consumption!  So let’s look at a few simple steps you can take:

1. Unplug It

Unplugging your electronics when not in use can save a surprising amount of energy. Even plugs that aren’t plugged into anything besides the wall are creating a steady drain. Take out phone chargers, laptop cords and lamp plugs when you aren’t using them — especially before going on vacation!


2. Good Seals

Proper seals around windows and doors (especially garage doors) can help prevent cool air from escaping and will keep your home cooler (or warmer). Poor seals make your HVAC system work much harder and drain energy into keeping the outside temperate, which is pretty pointless. It’s also a good idea to use insulating paint as a primer on your ceilings and walls to reduce the amount of heat that transfers down through the ceiling from the attic (and vice versa during winter).


3. Switch Light Bulbs

Changing over to CFL or LED bulbs is slightly more expensive for the initial investment, but you won’t have to buy new bulbs for years. That’s in addition to lowering your energy bills without even having to think about it.


4. Energy-Saver Appliances

Appliances that have the energy-saver logo will decrease your home’s energy use simply because of how they’re designed. They’ve been independently certified to meet government standards and are much less expensive than they were a few years ago. Toilets, light bulbs, stoves and washing machine sets are all great options to cut energy use with more efficient appliances.


5. Adjust the Thermostat

Keeping your thermostat a tiny bit higher in the summer and a little lower in the winter will save you energy and money all year long. A digital thermostat can help. Set it to a comfortable temperature for the morning and evening, while letting it get warmer or cooler while you’re at school or work. Don’t turn it completely off, however, as this will cause the system to work harder once it’s turned on — negating the energy savings you had while it was off.


6. Cut Heat Use

In the summer, you don’t have much use for heat. Instead of using the dryer, hang dry your clothes outside. Avoid using the oven or stove during the hot part of the day, and try washing your clothes with cold water instead of warm.


7. Work With Renewables

Solar, wind and geothermal technology is quickly advancing, and more of it is becoming available to consumers. Solar, of course, is the most widely available and least expensive option. Work with professionals who are committed to helping the environment when looking into this option. If it’s possible to install solar panels on your home, they can provide a dramatic drop in your energy use. If you can do enough of them, you may even be able to sell energy back to the electric companies!


Anum Yoon started and maintains Current on Currency, where she shares her hard-earned insights on money management.


#TBT: Friends With Money

In recognition of Throwback Thursday, we’re bringing back an all-time 90’s favorite. This award-winning television series, Friends, still plays in syndication – in fact, all ten seasons are ready to binge-watch on Netflix, right now. Whether you watch to laugh at the group’s everyday shenanigans, or as a cure for your 90’s nostalgia, most of us can relate to their antics at some point throughout the series. Isn’t that why we find it so funny?


Between laughs, you probably haven’t thought too deeply about their comical misfortune. But what if you could actually learn from their fictitious mistakes? Here at Inceptia we focus on helping you stay out of trouble financially, and even more than a decade later, we believe the lessons learned from Friends are still valuable today. Behold, the financial wisdom we can all learn with a little help from our Friends.


The One About Working
On the very first episode, we learn quite a bit about Rachel that we should take into serious consideration when it comes time to pay for college.


Rachel: So, like, you guys all have jobs?


Monica: Yeah, we all have jobs. See, that’s how we buy stuff.


This is something that seems like common sense, right? Well, sometimes that common sense falls by the wayside, especially after financial aid is disbursed. Many college students receiving federal aid, instead of accepting only the amount of money they absolutely need, end up over borrowing and receive a large refund check. For some students, this may seem like the best solution for their extra expenses such as school supplies, food, or housing. However, Monica is right: getting a job is a smarter option to help you pay for those added expenses. The benefit of following Monica’s example – rather than accepting an overblown refund check – is that earned money doesn’t get charged interest like borrowed money does. As we see next, Rachel has a lot to learn about working.


Rachel: Guess what!


Ross: You got a job?


Rachel: Are you kidding? I’m trained for nothing!


Take Rachel’s dilemma into consideration when you’re making decisions about a field of study. With a little research into job growth and high-demand skills, you can make an informed choice of major and eagerly begin the job hunt without worrying whether your studies have prepared you for available careers. Take a look at the projected level of growth your desired career will have in the next several years. Study the demand for positions you wish to hold someday, and be sure they’re located where you want to live. Most importantly, pick a career you will enjoy while staying financially stable. The last thing you want is to graduate with high levels of college debt and low levels of income; after all, the goal is to pay those loans back and strengthen your credit history, not wreck your credit by going into default.


The One About Where Your Money Goes

Another important lesson: don’t forget to figure in the chunk you’ll have to pay Uncle Sam.


Rachel: Isn’t this exciting! I earned this! I wiped tables for it, I steamed milk for it, and it was totally… not worth it. Who’s FICA? Why’s he getting all my money?


Once Rachel finally scores a job, she quickly realizes you don’t get to keep all of your earnings, as many students discover once they start their jobs. FICA is the government, and “he” takes this money out for government funded programs. It’s important to be knowledgeable about the taxes you will have to pay so you aren’t surprised when your earnings don’t come back as bulky as you initially expected. When you create a budget, plan it around the money you earn after taxes are taken out, otherwise you may find yourself buried under a pile of debt.


Chandler: Okay, here’s the electric bill.


Joey: This is how much we pay for electric?


Chandler: So we’ll do the rest of the bills later then?


Clearly, the women of the show aren’t the only ones who struggle to understand their finances. Joey is guilty of the same mistake many first-timers out of the nest find themselves guilty of – a nonexistent budget. Bills add up quickly, and it is critical to be aware of how much you spend on utilities and other reoccurring expenses so you can figure them into your budget. When you get your paycheck, determine how much will go to taxes. Then, pay yourself by putting a bit of the money into savings and your emergency fund. Follow that with normal monthly payments (including quarterly, semiannual, and annual payments). Once you have a budget, you will know how much excess spending money you have, but be sure to keep a tight grip on those extra bucks and avoid the temptation to impulse buy.


The One About “What’s In It for Me?”

Mark: …and the style number, and the invoice number, and the shipping date. Good. Any questions so far?


Rachel: Yeah. What kind of discount do we get?


Rachel is actually being a really smart shopper here. Do not be afraid to ask about discounts! Many businesses offer student discounts, especially in college towns. You can get discounts on food or larger purchases such as printers, personal computers, and computer software. In addition to discounts, think about the benefits offered by your employer (or potential employer). Don’t underestimate the benefits of medical insurance, retirement plans, disability insurance, paid time off and more. All of these perks can add up to a substantial part of your overall compensation, and your benefits package may make or break your workplace decision.


So next time you settle in for a night of 90’s nostalgia, pay attention to the details. These are only a few of the notable financial tips that can be dissected from our favorite gang of six, but there is plenty more we can learn from the mistakes from our group of “friends.” Nothing like a night of channel surfing to help us pick up on some solid personal finance advice – #TBT style.


This article was originally published on August 13, 2015.