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How to save on your water, electric and phone bills

Bills, bills, bills.

There's nothing like a fat stack of monthly invoices to make you feel like waving a big white flag that says "POOR."

But with a little financial discipline, you can curtail your monthly spending without changing around your whole life. Here's how.

First, study your bills when they come in. Know what your biggest expenses are — it'll help you know where you need to scale back.

And by all means, pay your bills on time. Late fees and penalties are useless budget killers. Set aside some time each week to write checks, or set up automatic bill payment through your bank. (Just be sure to monitor your account balance; overdraft fees are budget killers, too.)

Here are some tips to help you save on specific bills.

Water bill

Use your dishwasher — but only when it's full. Washing your dishes by hand wastes more water. Let your Kenmore do the dirty work.

Learn to fix leaky faucets. A dripping faucet can cost you a couple of gallons an hour. And turn off your sink faucet when shaving or brushing your teeth.

Put a timer in your bathroom to help you take shorter showers.

Save unused water. Whether you're rinsing off vegetables, boiling spaghetti or waiting for the shower to heat up, try to capture this water in buckets. If it's about to storm, plop a couple of buckets in your yard to catch rainwater. Use what you collect to water plants, soak your car or wash things you'd normally just hose down.

Wear your clothes more than once before washing them. Then, to save energy, hang them to dry.

Electric bill

Use less A/C. Raise your thermostat while you're at work — boosting your home's temperature by 10 to 15 percent for just eight hours can shave your annual electric bill by as much as 10 percent.

Turn off the TV. Don't leave it on in the background while you're doing something else. If you're shopping for a new TV, LCD screens are generally considered more energy-efficient than plasma screens.

Change your home computer settings. Turn it off when it's not in use, especially when you're asleep or at work. Make sure it goes into sleep mode quickly when it's not in use (screen savers don't save much power at all).

Phone bill

Consider dropping your land line. More and more people, especially young professionals, are going cell-only, and getting their Internet service through a cable provider. Nearly 16 percent of U.S. households are now land-line-free, and about a third of people aged 18 to 29 lived in such homes, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. You could save $20 to $50 per month and, as a bonus, avoid telemarketers. The downside? Cell phone reception can be spotty; calling 911 isn't as simple; and if you go over the minutes on your plan, be prepared to pay. Do your research before making the switch — if you have a family or spend a lot of time on the phone, it may be worth keeping your land line.

Cut out services you don't need. Call waiting, caller ID, three-way calling and other buck-or-two-a-month services can add up.

Shop around for a better long-distance deal. Try or to compare rates and plans.

Monitor your texting habits. If you're spending more time texting than talking, pick a cell phone plan that's tailored to your needs.

Sources:,, U.S. Department of Energy,, Choose to Save, Hewlett-Packard, Minneapolis Star-Tribune,,

How to save on your water, electric and phone bills 06/12/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 12, 2008 5:37pm]
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