Cutting energy costs can save a lot of money

While millions of Americans may try to save a lot of money over the course of the year in a number of different ways, one of the ways in which they might be able to do so even on something that's necessary could be right under their noses. While everyone is going to have to use electricity, water, and heat over the course of the year, there are many ways to cut those costs while still living comfortably.

The most obvious things that people can do to cut their utilities costs are pretty simple: Don't leave lights on, only take short showers, make sure the thermostat is set at a reasonable temperature, and so on. Altogether, even taking these minimal steps can end up saving families hundreds of dollars per year if they're careful about it, but to reduce costs even further they're probably going to have to take more drastic steps.

Data from the U.S. Department of Energy shows that, each year, the average household spends more than $2,200 on their various utilities bills, according to a report from the Detroit Free Press. And while even cutting that number by 10 percent can significantly improve a family's financial standing, just a little bit more being done in this regard will end up saving a potentially large amount more.

There's a catch
However, it should be noted that for families who want to cut their energy costs, a few investments might have to be made up front, the report said. For instance, when home appliances, ranging from microwaves to refrigerators, seem to be on their last legs, replacing them with inexpensive newer models might seem to be a good idea to save money. But over time, it might turn out being the slightly more expensive, "greener" models that end up saving money, because the reduced energy bills they lead to these appliances beginning to pay for themselves pretty quickly.

Along similar lines, buying new, programmable thermostats to replace older models might have a similar effect but a much more reasonable price tag, the report said. These devices often don't cost more than a few hundred dollars, and can pay for themselves in terms of reduced energy costs in as little as a year; that's because setting temperatures to be a little colder in the winter and warmer in the summer when people aren't home can reduce heat and electricity bills significantly without having any impact at all on home comfort. Moreover, many of these devices are even WiFi enabled, meaning that owners would be able to set them remotely, such as when they're about to leave work.

Cutting other energy costs
Of course, it's not just at home that millions of Americans use energy, the report said. On the road as well, people spend hundreds of dollars annually on gas and oil, even though the cost may be extremely damaging to their household budgets. But people who can get smarter about driving - such as by riding bikes, taking public transportation, or even carpooling - may be able to save hundreds of dollars each year. And as with investing in appliances that run more efficiently, buying cars that don't use as much gas (such as hybrids, electrics, and even smaller vehicles with more miles per gallon than vans, SUVs, or trucks) can go a long way for the average family.

The more money that's saved across a wide spectrum of aspects of everyday life, the better off families are likely to be going forward. They can use that extra money to pay down debts, build savings, and generally put themselves in an improved financial position.

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