10 Mindless Home Habits that Are Costing You Money

published Sep 18, 2019
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Credit: Cathy Pyle

When you’re tightening up your budget, what’s the first thing you do? It makes sense to eliminate big purchases to save money, but the little things can also make a big difference in your spending long-term. Thankfully, many of these mindless habits can be easily eliminated, hopefully helping you save your hard-earned money. 

Here are a few of the most common little things that add up over time.

Running the air conditioning or heat when you don’t need it 

From time to time, we’ve all been guilty of cranking the A/C or heat when it’s not exactly necessary. One easy way to save money on household expenses is to be more mindful of the temperature. Investing in a smart thermostat can be a little costly upfront, but planning out your temps ahead of time might help you save in the long haul. And if you’re leaving town for the weekend, make sure to turn the thermostat off or down before heading out.

Leaving the blinds open 

Since keeping your blinds or curtains open affects the temperature of your house, it might cause your air conditioning to run more, which could cost you cash. Try to start a habit of closing the blinds when your A/C is running, especially during hours when nobody is home. If you don’t want your home to feel like a cave while you’re there, you can focus on closing the blinds on sun-facing windows.

Washing in warm or hot water 

If you’re in a hurry, it’s easy to miss the water temp when you’re starting a load of laundry. The good news is, most laundry doesn’t even need hot water. As an energy and money-saving rule of thumb, always use cold water on bright colors that could run or on more delicate items, and opt for warm water instead of hot for your other items.

Taking a long, hot shower 

We get it: A long, steamy shower is super relaxing, but mindlessly letting your shower run not only wastes gallons of water—it also eats up money. If a hot shower is a non-negotiable, try to cut down the time. If you’d rather have a longer shower, use a cooler temp. You can also turn the water off altogether if you’re waiting to rinse out your conditioner, or just shower less in general! Your hair probably doesn’t need a daily wash, anyway.

Running the dishwasher half-full 

Who hasn’t run the dishwasher with just a few items after a late-night dinner? If you can’t wait for your clean dishes until there’s a full load of them, hand wash the things you need. It may take more time and energy, but if you use a sink partially full of warm, soapy water instead of keeping the water on the whole time, your utility bill won’t skyrocket unnecessarily.

Running the laundry half-full

Same principle here: If you need something right away but you don’t have additional dirty items, just hand wash it. If you don’t need a garment immediately, wait until there’s more laundry to wash so you don’t waste water. Also, try to be careful with dryer use, using cool temps or hang-drying items whenever possible.

Leaving electronics plugged in 

Even if your electronics aren’t on, keeping them plugged in at all times wastes energy—it’s called “standby” or “phantom” electricity loss. There are some electronics you’ll definitely want to keep plugged in for obvious reasons (like your kitchen appliances or your TV), but the items you don’t use as often (like your DVD player, small kitchen appliances, video game consoles, and even phone chargers) should be unplugged when you’re not using them.

Overfilling your fridge 

Did you know your fridge and freezer are most efficient when they’re not over or under full? Since a really full fridge might have items blocking air vents (which affects air circulation) and an empty fridge takes more energy to keep everything cold, you’re better off keeping it about three-quarters full.

Forgetting to change air filters 

Try to make a routine of changing air filters in your HVAC system and range hood every few months (depending on the type of filter you use). Since these things won’t run as efficiently with dirty filters, they’ll use more energy, which can add up over time. 

Leaving lights on 

This one might be obvious, but it’s a common offender. If you don’t absolutely need a lamp or overhead light on (that goes for fans, too!), turn it off. And absolutely turn all the lights in your home off when you’re not home, unless you need to leave a lamp on for security reasons.