Resolving to cut down on your spending this year can leave some extra cash in your pocket for things like going on vacation, buying a car, establishing an emergency fund, moving, paying off student loans, or getting out of credit card debt. One easy way to cut back on spending is to reduce your utilities bills costs by making some changes in your usage habits. Watching your bill go down can feel like an accomplishment on its own, too… just don’t become an Extreme Cheapskate.

Massachusetts is one of many states that offers subsidized assistance for residents who want to become more energy efficient. lists community and state-run programs designed to aid eligible low-income households in need of energy assistance.  Anybody in the state, regardless of income, can use great resources like Mass Save, which helps residents discover ways to save money on energy bills. Just type in a zip code and heat source type for a list of links to items like rebates, discounts on energy star appliances and energy-efficient products, as well as free home energy assessments.

There are also lots of easy DIY measures you can take to make a difference in your utilities bills.

Thermostat control

  • Most new thermostats have the ability to set a schedule that will turn the heat up and down depending on your schedule. Ideally, when everyone’s at work or asleep, you should turn the heat down to something like 60-62 degrees. It can even have different settings for weekends or different days if your work schedule changes. Don’t turn off the heat or turn it too low or you will lose those savings by using more energy to heat up the house again.

  • If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, you can just change the settings on your own by turning it down before bed and when you leave for work. Although, programmable thermostats are actually relatively inexpensive and probably worth buying. Your heat company or landlord may even provide one to you for free — it can’t hurt to ask.


  • If you have gaps surrounding your doors, you can get a weatherstripping kit to seal up these holes and keep the heat inside. You may want to weatherstrip doors that lead to the attic or basement, as well. This video can show you exactly how to install this energy saving measure on your own. If it’s just a gap under the bottom of the door, a door draft snake can make a difference and you can even make one yourself — out of socks.

  • Be sure all of your windows are fully shut and latched. A window may look shut at the bottom, but the top is cracked open. Check all your windows. If they’re all closed and still seem drafty, you might want to use plastic to seal them. Be sure to use high-quality window sealing plastic, which you stick on using double-sided tape and shrink it until it’s tight using a hair dryer. Here’s a video on how to do it.

  • Check around windows and doors, as well as in your attic or any weird storage eaves in your house, to make sure there are no gaping holes in the walls to the outside. If there are, cover large holes with something solid and air impermeable, like a board. For smaller holes, fill with canned spray foam or caulking.

Efficient lighting

  • Most people know by now that using compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs and other types of energy efficient lighting, like LED, can save you money on your electric bill. If you usually ignore this advice and continue to buy the cheap incandescent bulbs due to up front savings, keep in mind that a single CFL can save you $30 over the lifetime of the bulb. They’re not too expensive anymore either, though they certainly cost more than your standard bulb.

  • It’s fine to use the cheap light bulbs in lamps and sockets you use rarely. Using a CFL in your basement you only use for laundry isn’t going to save you much money, so go ahead and save a few bucks by going with the cheap bulb there.

  • You can also set timers for stuff like Christmas lights or nighttime heat lamps for caged pets so they automatically go off at whichever time they’re not needed.  Use a timer and/or motion sensors for your porch light so it’s only on at night or for a few minutes whenever someone walks in or out the door.

Tips for using appliances

  • Unplug appliances you don’t use all the time and turn off power strips while you’re gone for the day or overnight. Yes, even unplugging something that’s not on will save you money.

  • Only run the dishwasher when it’s absolutely full and be sure to hand wash large items like pots, pans, and mixing bowls so you run it less often. Learn other tips on how to load a dishwasher most efficiently by watching this singing instructional video or Google one that’s more official and less exciting/annoying.

  • Be sure to take out your air conditioner during the cold seasons. Keeping it in the window all year round will let tons of heat escape when it’s cold. Also, during cooling season, be sure to use A/C sparingly. Keep the temp up higher and use fans to supplement. Alternatively, don’t use an A/C at all, as it can double or triple the electric bill in summer. Use a fan and some ice packs and you’ll be fine.

  • Space heaters can also actually help you keep your energy bill down. This logic makes sense if you have a relatively large house but only use a small amount of space at a time. Keep your heat set in the low 60s all the time and use a tiny space heater to warm up whichever room you’re using.

Reducing the Internet/cable bill

  • If you think you can get by with just Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu (or a combo of the three), you may want to look into your cable company’s pricing for an Internet-only package. Although, in some cases, they do this crazy thing where just Internet actually costs more than an Internet + basic cable package. Do some research. There might be a better and more affordable package available to you.

  • If you live in an apartment building with lots of other units, talk with neighbors about paying them a few bucks each month for their wi-fi password and save yourself the trouble of having this bill in your name altogether.

  • Rumor has it that if you act like you’re going to cancel your service while you’re on the phone with a cable company rep, they might even throw you some exclusive deals to convince you to stay.