Cut your utility bills without paying a dime

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These days, it seems like you can't visit Lowe's, Wal-Mart, and the Home Depot without tripping across a few hundred "low-cost" ways to reduce your utility bills. While these can be tremendously helpful (and I'll probably mine them for a future post), they require time and money, not to mention the irritation of installing new items, adjusting them, and so forth. If you want to start saving now, don't worry about visiting the local DIY center. Just jot down a few notes (or print out this post), push your chair away from the computer, and start saving money!

Sweaters: You know all those nice sweaters hanging in your closet? Try wearing them around the house. According to some sources, lowering your thermostat in the winter can save you roughly $10 for every degree that you drop. Besides, sweaters give you that Nordic look that all the cool kids are lusting after.

Cold Water Wash: In addition to preserving the bright colors on your clothes, a cold-water wash will save you the cost of heating up all your laundry water, which can really add up. At the very least, wash your colors on cold and save the hot water for your whites.

Clean Your Fridge: Not only will cleaning out your refrigerator help you get rid of the nifty penicillin collection in your vegetable crisper, but it will also allow a more efficient airflow. Cleaning all the dust off the back of your fridge will all make it run more effectively, extending its life and saving you money.

Toilet Brick: Sometimes the old solutions are the best; a great way to save money on your water bill is by dropping a brick in your toilet tank. Simply remove the lid on the tank of your favorite porcelain convenience, place a regulation-sized brick in the back (be sure that it doesn't interfere with the machinery in your toilet!), and replace the lid. Your toilet will now draw a little less water every time it refills. You, in turn, will pay less on your monthly water bill.

NOTE: if your toilet does not seem to have enough pressure to clean out the bowl, remove the brick. However, most toilets don't need the full volume of water that they use.

Water Temperature: If you have a water heater in your home, you can try lowering the temperature of your water. Even a few degrees drop can save you some money. However, if you live in an apartment, or if a lot of your family members take showers at the same time, then this probably won't help.

Granted, none of these suggestions is going to make your utility bills completely disappear. However, they will save you a little bit of money here and there, and those little bits add up. Besides, getting rid of rotted vegetables and wearing that sweater Grandma made you...where's the downside?

Bruce Watson is a former English instructor, writer, blogger and all-around cheapskate. He's the co-author of Military Lessons of the Gulf War and A Chronology of the Cold War at Sea.

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