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In the never ending quest to cut our budgets, the low hanging fruit is the first to be picked. You abandon your daily Starbucks for homemade coffee, trade in nights at the bar for a cheap bottle of wine shared with a friend, and start cooking your own meals rather than eat out. Now what?
New technologies have given us ways to reduce spending on two often ignored line items in the household budget. With low initial investment the tech savvy saver can realize meaningful savings on the long road to a balanced budget.
With little competition the cable TV industry has been holding its customers hostage for years. The average American shells out nearly $65 per month for cable, paying for hundreds of channels they will never watch. ESPN is the most often used example of this phenomenon. Sure, plenty of people love ESPN, but even those who couldn’t tell a football from a golf club have to pay $5 to their cable provider for the channel every month.
The call for a la carte, or pay per channel, pricing has grown louder over the years, but so far the cable companies have been able to fight off this popular idea.
Luckily technology has come to the rescue. “Cord cutting” has moved from an oddity popular among early adopters to a viable alternative to paying increasing cable bills.
For movie lovers Netflix is the gold standard. An unlimited streaming plan costs just $8.99 a month and gives access to thousands of movies from blockbusters to independent foreign documentaries and everything in-between. Add in a solid selection of classic and contemporary TV series and plenty of options for children and you end up with well rounded service with something for everyone.
If you love sitting around at work discussing the finer points of last week’s Bachelor, Hulu can help you break your addiction to cable. While recent episodes of most shows are available with a free account, for for the truly devoted a $7.99 per month Hulu Plus account is well worth the price. Giving you access to all episodes of just about any TV show you could imagine, and plenty of movies to boot, Hulu is a great option if you want to keep up with current shows as well as replay old favorites.
Along with plenty of choice in which service to use, you can also choose the best way to watch them. If a new TV is in the cards, you’ll find smart TV loaded with apps for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and more are reasonably priced, especially considering the savings of not having a cable bill. Saddled with a dumb TV? Roku and Chrome Cast both start around $30, letting you smarten up nearly any TV.
Rising electric bills have been eating into household budgets for years. Unfortunately it looks like these increases are here to stay and are likely to get worse over the next decade.
Again, technology has stepped up to help thrifty consumers keep their power bills under control. Don’t be overwhelmed by the idea of undertaking expensive renovations like new windows and high efficiency HVAC systems. Instead, turn to a few simple DIY projects that have the potential to make a significant difference in home energy costs.
Heating and cooling accounts for 48% of a homes energy costs. A programable thermostat is a great way to save on this cost. After an easy install, your new thermostat can be set to automatically adjust the temperature in you home at different times. By setting lower (or higher in the summer) temperatures while you are asleep or away at work you can save up to 15% on your heating bill over a year.
A wide variety of programable thermostats are available online and in local hardware stores. From a utilitarian $30 option that gives you four programable periods per day, to the slick design of the $200 plus Nest Learning Thermostat that adapts to your habits and can be controlled from your smartphone you’re sure to find something that meets your needs.
Home lighting offers another great opportunity for savings. The simple lightbulb has undergone quite a transformation in the last ten years. Incandescent light bulbs work pretty much the same way they did 120 years ago. While cheap to buy, they waste an extraordinary amount of energy.
While still more expensive that a standard light bulb, newer efficient bulbs make up for the cost difference by lasting up to 50 times longer, and using much less energy than older bulbs.
Taking into account the upfront cost, improved longevity, and greater efficiency the Natural Reasources Defense Council estimates that it costs $13.36 per year to run a traditional 100 watt lightbulb versus just $2.54 for the most efficient LED bulbs. These savings can really add up when you consider how many light bulbs are in your home.