Small changes have reduced electrical charges in my home. On a year-over-year basis, we have used 20 percent less electricity due to two minor adjustments. We have switched most of the lightbulbs to compact florescent bulbs (CFLs), an energy-saving option. Additionally, during the day and vacations, we turn off the water heater, a move that generates cool savings. • Those are just a few of the ways of finding additional space in a tight budget, according to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. How do you cut the fat if your budget is already lean? A reality check will help you write smaller checks for household bills, according to the folks at CCCS. • "Successful saving starts with a realistic look at how you are spending money now and what changes you can realistically make," said Jessica Cecere, president of CCCS. • For example, consumers can cut electric bills by $50 or more by washing clothes in cold water, using energy-efficient bulbs and installing a programmable thermostat, Cecere said. Here are other recommended changes:
Trim salon visits. It's possible to save several hundreds of dollars annually with do-it-yourself haircuts, manicures and pedicures. If you're hooked on salon pampering, stretch out visits to the professionals with home-grooming sessions.
Free movies. Libraries and community centers are a source of free movie rentals. One credit counseling client saved $20 to $40 every month by borrowing movies from the library. Another option: Set up an informal movie library with friends, neighbors and co-workers.
Review monthly expenses. Periodically review automatic bill-paying charges, credit card statements and other monthly bills. Automatic debits may include gym fees, vacation clubs, publications or other subscription services that you may no longer use, according to CCCS. Scan bills for overcharges and other errors.
Go green. Energy-efficient appliances use less energy and save money over the life of the product. In my home, we were surprised to learn that our old refrigerator and stove were energy hogs. Likewise, a CFL bulb uses 75 percent less energy than a standard lightbulb and last 10 times longer, the Department of Energy says.