When searching for a place to live, rent is not the only dollar figure you should be looking at. The cost of utilities has the potential to drain your pocketbook if you don’t watch what you use.
Cutting costs where you can
When searching for a place to live, rent is not the only dollar figure you should be looking at. The cost of utilities has the potential to drain your pocketbook if you don’t watch what you use. Finding a place that includes water and electricity in the rent is ideal and will save you a lot of budgeting. But if you can’t, here are some tips on how to save money on some of life’s necessities.
Every drop costs when you’re paying for water, so be conservative. Don’t leave the water running when you don’t need it, and make sure you turn faucets completely off to avoid dripping. Also, check for leaks. According to the Portland Water Bureau, an average residence loses 22 gallons of water each day due to leakage, most commonly from faucets and toilets.
The biggest way to save on water use will be to keep your showers short. If you need a way to time yourself, make a CD or iPod playlist of songs you like that are less than five minutes long. Each day, listen to a different song in the shower (while not getting your electronic device wet) and make sure you switch the water off by the time it ends. This is a good way to pace yourself—you’ll know by the second chorus to rinse the shampoo from your hair if you want to have time to condition. If this doesn’t work, try setting your alarm clock for later than usual. You’ll have no choice but to hurry through your shower, unless you like walking into class late.
This is perhaps the easiest utility to waste. TVs, Xboxes, curling irons, lights—these modern conveniences and fire hazards don’t run on love. So when you aren’t using them, turn them off. No one is using your DVD player when you aren’t home, you understand? Don’t let it soak up precious resources for no reason. It’s that simple.
When it starts to get chilly outside, the autumn nights and winter months will coax you to turn on the heat, but just turn a deaf ear. You don’t need electric heat in the winter—all you need are some layers. Wrap yourself in a blanket instead of turning up the thermostat, and you’ll be all the richer for it.
There are also ways to use less electricity without living in the dark: energy-efficient light bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs approved by Energy Star, a joint program between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, last 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs and use about 75 percent less energy. These bulbs can be found at stores like Home Depot, Staples and Best Buy.
If you really need cable and Internet, look for package deals. For $99 per month, you can get digital cable with basic On Demand, high-speed Internet and basic phone services from Comcast. The catch is that you have to sign a one-year contract. But if you want to save, oh, $82.50 a month, get their basic cable for $16.50 a month, use the Internet that’s free to you at PSU and forget the land line: get a cell phone. Easy.
There’s middle ground, of course, depending on what you want. If you’ve got roommates, try to get them to split the cost of Internet and/or cable with you. But for god’s sake, you don’t need the super deluxe TV package. You don’t need 8 billion channels that you won’t have time to watch. The Office is on NBC and all the best HBO shows get released on DVD. What more do you need?
Obviously, you have to eat. But you know what? You’re spending too much at restaurants. Two words, my friend, will save you loads of money: grocery shopping. It’s hard and maybe a little scary to drop $100 on groceries at one time, but that will feed you for weeks. Just eating lunch on campus can run you anywhere from $5 to $10 per meal, whereas a homemade sandwich and side of chips will cost you just a dollar or two. Maybe brown-bagging it won’t be the most exciting part of your day, but it’ll get a lot more fun when you realize your bank account hasn’t been depleted by your stomach.
One more piece of advice to keep your spending urges at bay: forget Starbucks. Those jerks just raised their prices by an average of nine cents per cup this summer. They’re not doing anything that you can’t do at home for a fraction of the cost. You need a nonfat vanilla latté in the morning? Brew some coffee and add a splash of nonfat vanilla creamer. It may not have espresso in it, but you can make the coffee as strong as you want for your required daily caffeine kick, and it’ll taste even better when you know you’ve saved so much money on it.