Top5 Ways to Cut Spending on Household Bills

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By Kelli B. Grant,
Senior Consumer Reporter,

EACH MONTH, you can count on two things arriving in your mailbox: the latest round of promotional offers and bills.

Paying all your monthly obligations and balancing the household budget can seem like a full-time job, especially when times are tough. But there are some simple ways to cut back on expenses without making too much of a sacrifice.

Here are simple ways to save hundreds of dollars each year on five major household bills:

1. Electricity

The fix is really quite easy: Unplug devices not in use. "They're small energy losses, but they add up quickly," says Jennifer Thorne Amann, a senior associate with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a nonprofit focused on energy efficiency.

The average household spends more than $250 annually on standby power, according to the Department of Energy. That figure is easily reduced by plugging your cellphone, iPod and other chargers into a single power strip that can be turned off when not in use, says Amann. While you're at it, make sure to unplug devices you don't use frequently, like the printer in your home office and the TV in the guest bedroom.

(For more tips on how to cut a gadget's power drain, see our guide. Looking for other ways to save? Click here).

2. Groceries

Stock up on the grocery staples that you always need -- like the kids' favorite cereal and value packs of chicken breasts -- whenever they're on sale, even if you're not running low that particular week, advises Teri Gault, founder of shopping site The Grocery Game Sale cycles are slow, with most items popping up in your supermarket's weekly flier just once every three months. So it's better to take advantage of Shop Rite's $8.79 sale on a six-pack of Bounty paper towels now than spend an extra dollar for them next week.

For more tips to cut your grocery bill, check our savings guide.

3. Cable and Internet

Bundle your services. A Comcast subscriber in New Jersey would save $458 over the course of a year by subscribing to a package of cable, phone and Internet, rather than purchasing each service separately (and presumably, from multiple providers). Even just bundling cable and Internet saves $392 a year.

For ways to save on cable and other splurges, click here.

4. Heating and Cooling

Seal up your home. You're paying good money all year for heating and air conditioning, but much of that pricey air leaks out through cracks around doors, windows and even electrical outlets, says Ronnie Kweller, a spokeswoman for the Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit consumer education group that focuses on energy efficiency. Buying caulk and weather-stripping costs less than $50 at your local hardware store, and pays for itself within a season, she says. Over the course of the year, you could see heating and cooling bills drop by up to 30%.

Other bill-cutting tricks vary by season. Look for tips on saving on winter heating costs here and summer cooling costs here.

5. Telephone

Cut back on either your landline or your cellphone. You don't need all-encompassing plans on both, says Sam Simon, chairman of the Telecommunications Research and Action Center, a consumer advocate. Someone who has a cellphone just for emergencies should consider switching to a prepaid plan where they would pay less than $20 per month. Meanwhile, a person who uses a landline mostly for incoming calls could switch to a measured-use home phone, which offers limited local outgoing calls and unlimited incoming ones for about $10 per month, says Simon.

See more tips on how to cut phone costs here.

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