Sometimes, the easiest ways to save are right under your nose.
You might be diligent about clipping coupons, hunting for bargains, and comparing prices while shopping, but if you're not paying more attention to your home, you could be missing out on some serious savings. Here are 10 common ways your home could be losing you money -- and what to do about them:
10 Little Household Habits That May Be Costing You a Fortune
You may think you're being frugal by trying to get every last month of use out of that fridge from the 1980s, but you could actually be costing yourself money. Old appliances don't run as efficiently as newer, Energy Star-rated ones, and that adds a lot to your electric bill. Invest in newer models, and they will pay for themselves soon enough.
Potential savings: $50 to $100 per year, per appliance (depending on the respective efficiency of your old/new ones).
Remember how your father used to annoy you by insisting you turn off every light in rooms you weren't in? He was onto something. The cost of leaving modern appliances running when you're not using them can add up, so stop leaving the TV on "in the background" or letting your computer hover in "sleep mode" overnight. If you're not using something, turn it off.
Potential savings: $20 to $50 a year.
Water waste is a huge problem in many homes. Be mindful of how much you're using, and adjust your routines. Try taking shorter showers, only running the laundry and dishwasher when you have full loads, running your sprinklers only when needed, and not leaving the water running when you brush your teeth.
Potential savings: A few bucks to $50 or more a month, depending on your local sewer and water rates.
It can be all too easy to "set it and forget it" when it comes to heating and cooling costs. Invest in a programmable thermostat that will automatically adjust the temperature based on the times you're actually at home. Close the vents in any rooms you're not using. If you have window air conditioning units, make sure they have an "energy saver" function so they only run when needed instead of constantly.
Potential savings: $20 to $50 per month, depending on local costs and climate.
If you're big on convenience, you could be paying more to keep your house clean than you need to. For an easy switch that won't add much more time to your cleaning routine, consider switching your paper towels for reusable sponges and your disposable dusting wipes for rags and a cleaning spray.
Potential savings: $5 to $10 per month.
That toilet that keeps running may seem like a minor annoyance, but small problems left unattended to can result in big problems down the line. The instant you notice something's starting to malfunction, address it. You don't want that tiny leak in your laundry room sink to turn into a flooded basement that will cost you thousands.
Potential savings: Could reach $10,000 or more if you're using that flooded basement as an example -- although that depends on what part of the bill, if any, your homeowner's insurance will cover.
Avoid expensive repairs as much as possible by keeping things in good running order year-round. Regularly clean out the vents under your fridge and in any air conditioning units. Change the lint traps in your dryer and vacuum cleaner often. Get the blades in your lawnmower sharpened each season and make sure to change the oil as needed. Have your heating ducts cleaned out annually. A little preventive maintenance can save you costly fixes and make appliances last longer.
Potential savings: $100 to $300 per year, if you can squeeze several additional years of life out of multiple appliances such as your washing machine, clothes dryer, vacuum cleaner or air conditioner.
If you pay your utility bills each month without question, you could be paying more than you need to. You'd be surprised to find how many companies are willing to negotiate on rates. Get on the phone with customer service and see what options are available. You never know unless you ask.
Potential savings: $5 to $40 per month.
You're wasting more than space by holding onto those boxes of baseball cards in your attic and that shelf of old electronics you keep saying you're going to repair (but you know you never will). Save yourself cleaning time and make a little extra money by getting rid of anything you're not actively using. Garage sales, Craigslist and eBay are all great ways to turn your unwanted junk into profit.
Potential profit: $5 to $500 or more, depending on how valuable your possessions are.
If you recently became an empty-nester (or you bought too big a home to begin with), you could be paying for rooms you never even use. Downsizing will save on rent or mortgage payments, and it can also reduce your monthly utility costs.
Potential savings: Tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the cost of your current home, as compared with the home that you downsize into.
Paula Pant ditched her 9-to-5 job in 2008. She's traveled to 30 countries, owns six rental units and runs a business from her laptop. Her blog Afford Anything is a gathering spot for rebels who refuse to say, "I can't afford it." Visit Afford Anything to learn how to shatter limits and live life on your own terms.