Pinching pennies wherever possible is a goal many strive for, especially in this cash-strapped economy. Take our recent Frugal Sense winner and "frugalista" Lynn Bulmahn for example. From thrifting to estate sale shopping, she takes advantage of every opportunity to save money. Cutting back on spending in the summer months can be difficult when we rely so heavily on air conditioning to keep things cool, however, Bulmahn says comparison shopping for electric and natural gas rates makes saving money easier.
Lynn wrote in saying:
In some states, different utility providers are now allowed to compete for your business. If so, you may be able to comparison shop and find a real steal of a deal on your electric or natural gas rates. For instance, here in Texas, different retail electric providers are now providing residential electrical service so that consumers have a choice. I've changed from my old electric company to a newer one and this has significantly dropped the price I pay per kilowatt hour. It's especially noticeable in the summer -- the cost of air conditioning my house is no longer sky high! All the retail electric providers compete for people's business, and consumers who comparison shop come out ahead. The service I get is the same, it's just the price is much lower now! If this is available in your area, take advantage of competition and shop around for the best rates.
We took time out to talk to Buhlman about her other money-saving tips:
Bankrate.com: How did you come up with your tip? What made you want to look around for different utility companies?
Lynn Bulmahn: Here in Texas we have incredibly hot summers -- the temperature will get up to 100 degrees or more -- and you definitely want your air conditioning. If you don't watch out you can really be paying through the nose on the air conditioning bill, so I shop around for my utility providers and get into a contract and if I can get 8 to 10 cents per kilowatt hour as opposed to 14 or 15 cents, well, you know, you save quite a bit of money because believe me, you're going to be using the air conditioner quite a lot in the summertime.
Bankrate.com: How much money do you estimate you've saved by using this tip?
Lynn Bulmahn: Oh gosh, I'm sure it's up in the hundreds of dollars. If I can keep my air conditioning bill below $150 I'm doing fantastic in the summer and usually, it's around $112 or something like that. I've had friends who have had $200 and $300 bills for houses. Of course, everything depends on your house and if you've done the other things, too, like insulate and have a good energy-saving unit. The most energy-saving unit in the world is not going to help you if you have a higher electric bill. So, I locked in a contract for a cheaper rate and I've been very happy and I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that when my contract expires I can find another contract that has a good rate.
Bankrate.com: Do you consider yourself a "frugalista"? If so, in what other areas of everyday life do you find yourself trying to save money?
Lynn Bulmahn: Yes, I'm a frugalista. I told the lady at the consignment store the other day, "It's a good thing your shop is open, otherwise I wouldn't even know which new clothing stores to go shop at, because I've been buying consignment store clothes and thrift store clothes for so long." You can get fantastic clothes for very little money. I got an Easter dress at Goodwill and it still had tags on it. I told my friends I got it at the GW Boutique, that's what I call Goodwill. Why pay $80 or $100 or more dollars for something when I can get it for $8?
Bankrate.com: Do you have any other money-saving tips to share with our readers?
Lynn Bulmahn: I look at secondhand sources first, because you can usually get things cheaper from secondhand sources. I've gotten everything from ceiling fans to coat hangers to trash cans in secondhand places like Habitat for Humanity thrift stores and Goodwills … and The Salvation Army has good thrift stores. A lot of times people will turn in things, like maybe from estates or something or from garage sales, that they couldn't use but it's perfectly usable and perfectly good and it's a lot cheaper to get it there. You always have to check the prices because every once in a while a store will have a whole lot cheaper price just on a special or something, but a lot of times you can get things at thrift stores a lot cheaper and better than you can at regular stores.
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