5 big household expenses you can easily cut
Granted, it can be hard to imagine getting rid of some of life's "necessities." Ride a bike to work instead of drive, are you crazy? Watch television shows over the Internet instead of cable? No way. But when the savings are tallied, it may make you think twice. Here arefive of the little luxuries in life thatyou're financially better off doing without:
Car: $10,000 annual savings
After paying the mortgage or the monthly rent, owning a car is the second largest household expense. Some cars cost more than others to run, of course. A car's sticker price will increase the interest paid on a loan and its make and model will help determine how much you'll pay in insurance rates, while it's mileage will impact the amount of gas the owner will buy (and let's not forget that the average car depreciates in value by 65% over five years). And don't forget maintenance and repairs.
There are plenty of online calculators to help you figure out how much your car costs to drive per year. AAA estimates that it costs an average of $9,519 to drive a medium-sized sedan 15,000 miles per year. That estimate, by the way, doesn't include auto loan payments.
Getting rid of the car may seem like insanity, but if you have two cars in your household downsizing to one isn't as formidable as you might think. Obviously, for those living in urban areas getting rid of the car is a lot more feasible since public transportation is abundant and frequent. There are also other options, such as carpooling, walking, biking to work or just telecommuting from home. Not all of these options are free, but they are a lot cheaper than owning a car. When you're in a bind and need some wheels, Zipcar rents cars for $7 an hour, or offers daily rates from $78 so if you only need a car a handful of times a month it could work out to be a much cheaper option.
Home heating, cooling: $6,000 annual savings
Depending on where you live, heating and air conditioning a home can be a major expense. But it can be a lot more manageable depending on the type of heating or cooling methods you use.
Electric heat is the most expensive for heating a home, costing $5,545 per year for the average home, while cheaper options, like natural gas, cost an average of $1,889 annually. Online worksheets are available to determine how much you can save by switching from one heat source to another.
Cooling a home with central air conditioning can cost roughly $500 a year in Phoenix, Arizona, where it's needed the most. Room air conditioners can cost about half that amount if you run them a lot. To cut costs, try running an oscillating fan, which costs about $1.50 a month and using air conditioning only when you need it. Also drawing your blinds will help keep the sun out and the room cooler.
A swimming pool: $3,100 annual savings
A swimming pool may seem like the ultimate addition to your home, but it is also the ultimate unnecessary expense. Maintaining a pool for a year -- which includes maintenance, water and regular repairs -- costs $1,500 to $2,000 a year, according to MSN Money. Add heating, and it can cost $1,050 more per year, raising the minimal annual cost to $3,100.
The costs get higher as time goes by. Once pools are five years old, the repairs begin. It costs $500 for a new filter or pump, which typically need to be replaced at this point. At 15 years, plumbing problems typically start popping up, costing as much as $8,000 to fix.
But what if you have no intention of turning your pool into a backyard pond? Well, if you must heat the pool water, you could try a solar-powered heater. The average solar heater costs $3,000 to $4,000 to install, which is a hefty chunk of change to cough up at first, but within four years it will pay for itself.
Satellite or cable TV: $900 annual savings
The average cable TV bill is $75 a month, or about $900 a year. Buying a good antenna will allow you to get HDTV signals for free and get rid of that costly cable or satellite TV service. Add to your viewing options by turning to the Internet. Sites like Hulu allow you to stream movies or TV shows at no cost, Netflix offers unlimited movie streaming for a minimal monthly fee, and Apple sells individual shows at 99 cents apiece.
Even though watching shows for free online is growing increasingly easier, many consumers are still reluctant to cut the cable cord (or remove the satellite dish). According to a recent ABI Research survey, 32% of respondents said they would be interested in watching TV shows over the Internet, but only 13% said they would cancel their pay-TV service and rely on the web entirely for their viewing needs.
Landline phone: $600 annual savings
Most of us pay for a landline and a cell phone each month, but do you really need two phones, two voicemails to check and two phone bills? You could save $50 a month, or $600 a year, by dropping landline service and relying solely on your cell.
In August, Sue Northey gave up her landline, downgraded her Internet service and got rid of some cable TV channels, saving $75 a month. "Overall, I have hardly missed having a landline," she wrote in an e-mail. "I will admit that I occasionally reach for the phone and notice it's not there but overall, it hasn't been a big deal." Other than remembering to alert everyone of her new phone number, she says life without a landline is great.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.