real estate

Save Money on Practically Everything, 2011: Utilities and Home Improvement

Don't pay for dozens of TV channels you don't watch.

Cable basics

Drop the pricey packages.

Don't pay for dozens of TV channels you don't watch. Go basic and save big. Although cable packages and prices vary by region, most providers offer a bare-bones plan. Verizon's FiOS TV Local Digital, for instance, delivers local channels for $13 a month. And rather than pay for premium channels, sign up for Netflix's streaming service. For $8 a month, you can watch unlimited movies and TV shows (albeit not always the latest offerings) via your home Internet connection.
ANNUAL SAVINGS: $648 (basic cable plus Netflix versus average digital cable bill of $75 a month)

Energy wizard

Shrink your utility bills in ways big and small.

Energy costs -- which average $1,900 annually -- are a budget buster for many U.S. households. In Ithaca, N.Y., Jon Harrod, president of Snug Planet, an energy-auditing and retrofit firm, says these ideas can save big.

Quick payback. Start with the easy changes that cost nothing. These include switching off lights and electronics when not in use and turning down the thermostat (or properly setting your programmable thermostat). Put compact fluorescent light bulbs in your five most-used light fixtures, and swap out your showerhead for a next-gen, very-low-flow model. (More suggestions at www.energystar.gov and www.energysavers.gov.)
SAVINGS: $454.

Long-term payback. Replace an older refrigerator with a new one (you'll save $100 on energy annually by replacing a 20-year-old fridge with a new, Energy Star-rated one). If you're doing lots of laundry, replace an older washer (save $135 a year when you retire one that's at least ten years old).
SAVINGS: $235.

Air leakage through the exterior shell and interior ductwork is a big issue. Also, attics, basements and crawl spaces often lack sufficient insulation. Sealing your home's gaps and adding insulation may cost in the range of $2,500, says Harrod, but these measures can cut heating and cooling bills 20% to 50%.
SAVINGS: $300.

TOTAL ANNUAL SAVINGS: $989

Get fit at home

Set up your own gym.

The average gym membership will set you back $40 to $70 per month. With a budget of about $1,500, it's easy to build a state-of-the-art gym at home.

For cardio, pick up an elliptical machine, such as the Schwinn 420 Elliptical ($600). And for strength training, get a total-body machine, such as a Classic Bowflex ($650). Fill out the rest of your gym with resistance bands (three for $30), a stability ball ($40) and a few sets of dumbbells ($50).
ANNUAL SAVINGS: $600 (savings on a $50-a-month gym membership after initial investment)

Most Popular

Retirement Income Shouldn’t Depend on the Market; It Should Depend on Math
retirement planning

Retirement Income Shouldn’t Depend on the Market; It Should Depend on Math

The math isn’t as tough as you might think. It all starts with dividing your assets into three different buckets.
May 23, 2022
Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
Why Are Gas Prices Still Going Up?
spending

Why Are Gas Prices Still Going Up?

The cost of a gallon of gas is heading back toward its March highs. What’s driving the resurgence, and will gas prices go down anytime soon?
May 23, 2022

Recommended

The 25 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In
places to live

The 25 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In

Take a look at our list of American cities with the lowest costs of living. Is one of the cheapest cities in the U.S. right for you?
April 28, 2022
7 Money-Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund
Tax Breaks

7 Money-Smart Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund

Nearly 60% of taxpayers expect a refund this year, and many will receive a larger amount.
April 22, 2022
Best Things to Buy at Dollar Tree Dollar Stores
Making Your Money Last

Best Things to Buy at Dollar Tree Dollar Stores

You might be surprised by some of the items you can and should purchase for just a buck.
April 19, 2022
How to Get a Car Deal in This Market
Buying & Leasing a Car

How to Get a Car Deal in This Market

Low inventories mean it’s hard to haggle on price, but you can still negotiate on financing when shopping for a new or used car.
March 28, 2022