smart spending

5 big bills you can cut fast

4 ways to stop 'bill creep'
By Jean Chatzky

As the economy continues its slow recovery, Americans are looking for quick ways to cut their expenses and hold on to more cash.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to chop your spending without a lot of time or hassle. Some of these cuts will save you just a few dollars, while others can net even bigger savings.

Add them all up, and you could trim your annual expenses by hundreds of dollars or more.

Following are five areas where you can cut your bills fast.

5 areas to slash your bills

  1. Energy and car gas
  2. Food and groceries
  3. Banking and credit
  4. Taxes
  5. Car insurance

1. Energy and car gas

Energy costs are boiling over.

Fortunately, some relatively cheap fixes are available, and many begin in the home.

For example, weatherstripping, or caulking doors and sealing windows, can keep out cold and heat, lowering your heating and cooling bills.

"Every little step helps, and if you can't afford new windows or storm windows, plastic film kits aren't a bad alternative," says Ronnie Kweller, deputy director of communications at the Alliance to Save Energy.

Other tips for cutting home energy costs include:

  • Installing a programmable thermostat. These handy gadgets let you turn up the heat or air conditioning just before you get home rather than paying to keep your empty dwelling comfy all day. Lowering your thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours during the day in winter can save 5 percent to 15 percent per year on your heating bill, according to the Department of Energy.
  • Switching to energy-efficient light bulbs. Yes, they do cost more than traditional bulbs, but they wind up saving money because they use two-thirds less energy and can last 10 times longer, Kweller says.
  • Being efficient. Clean and change furnace air filters and wrap your hot water heater. These moves help your appliances run more efficiently and cheaply. Seal ducts on air and heating systems to improve efficiency by as much as 20 percent, according to the Alliance to Save Energy.
  • Lower the hot water heater temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. That's hot enough to kill germs and safely wash dishes. Do laundry in cold water.

Meanwhile, you can also trim vehicle gas costs with the following steps:

  • Adopt good driving habits. You'll save a bundle if you stop speeding. If you typically race around at 70 mph instead of 55 mph, you're lowering your vehicle's fuel efficiency by as much as 17 percent, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, or ACEEE.
  • Pump up your tires. Tires lose about a pound of pressure a month, and if you drive with tires that are 3 pounds underinflated, your vehicle's fuel economy drops by 1 percent, according to the ACEEE.
  • Clean your car. If your car resembles a junk yard on wheels, clean it out. If you're hauling around 100 extra pounds, for example, you're lowering fuel efficiency by up to 2 percent, according to the ACEEE.



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