If you're one of the many looking for extra cash, you may not need to look further than your own home, says Mike Sullivan, director of education for Take Charge America, a national non-profit credit counseling agency.
"There's a tremendous opportunity to save money in nearly every room of your home," said Sullivan. "By making several small changes, we can save sizable amounts of cash that can be used more effectively, like paying off debt or saving for retirement."
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Americans spend more than $160 billion a year to heat, cool, light and live in their homes. Sullivan offers seven household tips to help you cut your bills and save:
* Laundry: Wash your clothes in cold water, and wait until you have a full load before running the washing machine. This will help you save money on energy and water. You can also hang dry your clothes, as opposed to using a dryer, to save even more.
* Lighting: Use compact, fluorescent light bulbs in all lamps, which use less energy and last six to 10 times longer than standard incandescent light bulbs. And don't forget to turn off the lights when you leave the room.
* Electronics: Did you know many electronics use energy (and money), even when they're turned off? For instance, your cell phone charger still uses electricity even if the cell phone is not plugged into it. Remembering to unplug items like the charger, DVD player, printer or fax machine that aren't used on an ongoing basis can help cut your bills too. You should also completely turn off your computer when you aren't using it, rather than allowing it to "sleep" or "hibernate."
* Cable: If possible, bundle your cable bill with your phone and/or Internet bills. This can amount to monthly savings. In addition, movie channels are not necessities. Cut them if you can.
* Kitchen: According to the Energy Department, appliances account for as much as 20 percent of your energy bill. Newer, more energy-efficient models save energy and water. When possible, use a microwave or toaster oven to reheat small portions of food rather than an oven. When washing dishes, avoid pre-rinsing if you are using a dishwasher, and only run your dishwasher with a full load.
* Bathroom: Bathing is the primary use of hot water in most households. You can save water and energy by taking short showers instead of baths. Plus, low-flow, aerating showers and faucet heads significantly reduce the amount of water usage.
* Cooling/Heating: Install a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts your home's temperature settings when you're away or sleeping. According to the Energy Department, a programmable thermostat with four temperature settings can save up to $150 a year in energy costs. If you are leaving home for an extended period of time, turn the thermostat off or adjust the setting to conserve energy while you're away.
For more information on savings, contact Sullivan at Phoenix-based Take Charge America, 800-823-7396 or visit its Web site at www.takechargeamerica.org. Ư--Jeb Bing