Food is expensive, gas remains stubbornly high and winter's big heating bills are coming.
Since loans are tough to get and retirement funds are shrinking fast, we're sharing some old-fashioned penny-pinching tips throughout this week in the Business section.
Some come from readers. Others come from the misers on our staff. And a few come from rules our mothers taught us or hints we've read over the years. (Raleigh) News & Observer
Keep a thrifty house
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1. Dry your clothes outside on a clothesline and use the dryer only to “fluff” the stiff ones.
2. Wash laundry in cold water and you'll save roughly 36 cents a load.
3. Lower your thermostat at night and stay warm with flannel sheets and down comforters. For each degree you lower it, you'll reduce heating costs 3 percent to 5 percent.
4. Lower the water heater temperature; 120 degrees is hot enough.
5. Unplug electronics that aren't being used.
6. Switch your old electric meter for a time-of-use meter. It gives you a better rate for running appliances/heat/AC weekends and after 9 p.m.
7. Wear long underwear.
8. Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescents; over its lifetime, a single CFL saves you about $30.
9. Turn off lights when you're not in a room; 5 percent to 10 percent of your monthly energy bill goes toward lighting.
10. Seal ducts and add insulation.
11. Replace old windows and exterior doors. If you can't afford to do the whole house at once, start in the rooms you use the most.
12. Turn the dishwasher off on the drying cycle and open the door to add heat to the room. It also supplies moisture during winter when heating systems can dry the air.
13. Likewise, when you finish baking, open the oven door.
14. If you have ceiling fans, reverse their rotation to push warm air down.
Paying (and cutting) bills
15. Pay biweekly instead of monthly on your mortgage. You'll make an extra payment annually and save thousands on interest over the life of the loan.
16. Check with your phone, cable or insurance companies at least once a year to see whether you're getting the best rate. Ask about discounts and specials.
17. Go to a site such as letstalk.com to find the best plans for your phone habits.
18. Drop long-distance service and get a prepaid card. You will have to dial a toll-free number, punch in your PIN, then dial the number you want. The savings may be worth it.
19. Drop your landline and use your cell phone.
20. Consider upping the deductibles on your home and auto insurance for lower premiums. Raising homeowners' deductible to $500 can cut a premium by up to 15 percent, reports the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group.
21. Pay your bills on time to avoid late fees.
22. Pay your bills online to save on stamps. Automate it and you won't forget to pay.