Tips on how to keep the summer heat from raising your bills.

How to Keep Summer Utility Costs in Check

The summer months can be expensive to navigate. Families incur additional costs from rising utility bills, increased daycare expenses, and vacation costs, which can strain the family budget. The cost of utilities can double from the increased use of HVAC units combating high temperatures and additional water usage to keep gardens and yards thriving.

Finding effective ways to keep costs in check can prevent you from spending unnecessarily in order to bridge the gap. Fortunately, there are simple measures to keep costs down. Here are effective ways to lower utility bills even when the temperature gauge rises.

Lowering Your HVAC Bill

Running the air conditioner can influence up to 50% of your power bill. Whether you operate on gas or electric power, there are small changes you can make that will make a big impact on your bill.

  • Inspect your HVAC unit. Before the summer gets underway, have a professional inspect and clean your unit. Routine maintenance will keep the AC running efficiently and ensure you have adequate freon to cool your home. Low coolant and clogged air vents will wear out the motor faster and make it harder to keep the home cool. Other simple tasks you can complete include, changing air filters regularly, ensuring furniture does not block vents, and removing dust and debris from the system.
  • Raise the thermostat. One of the most effective ways to lower costs is to set the thermostat at a higher temperature. Consider programming your programmable thermostat to raise the temperature while you are at work or away from home. Doing so can shave 1% off the bill for every degree you raise the temperature for 8 hours or more.On the other hand, do not turn the AC off when you leave, because this action can actually raise your power bill. When the home gets hot during your absence, it takes more energy to cool the home. The unit will run non-stop on high until the house reaches your desired comfort level instead of coming on occasionally to adjust the temperature a few degrees.
  • Use fans strategically. Turning on fans in occupied rooms can allow you to run the central AC unit at a higher temperature. Ceiling fans are particularly useful in circulating air in a room.
  • Close vents and shut doors in unoccupied rooms. The growing size of homes can leave you cooling additional square footage for rooms you do not regularly use. Closing vents in unused rooms and keeping doors closed can lower your power bill. Separate thermostats in lightly used areas are another effective way to reduce the cost of heating basements or infrequently used areas of the home.
  • Reduce Air Leaks. It is common for homes to have places where air escapes. These are often small passages that allow cold air outside and warm air into your home. Start with major areas such as door and windows. You can caulk areas with gaps or add weather stripping to prevent air loss. If you can see the light from outside through or around a door or window, air is escaping. After sealing these areas look around fixtures, attics, and even light sockets on exterior walls for air loss.Many utility companies offer free energy audits, which can identify your biggest areas of concern.
  • Turn off the lights when not in use. Lights not only use power, but they also produce heat. In addition to turning off the lights or installing motion sensors to activate lights, you can also save money by converting to low wattage bulbs. Spiral fluorescents and LED lights have a higher upfront cost, but they last longer, use less energy, and run cooler than traditional light bulbs.Another strategy to bring light into the home is open curtains and blinds to receive natural light, which can eliminate the need to keep the lights on. In the heat of the day, natural light can add heat to your home. In this case, closing blinds and curtains in unused rooms and sun-facing rooms can lower the heat levels caused by the sun’s radiation.
  • Avoid using the oven and dryer. Both of these appliances add a lot of heat to your house. The dryer uses the most power of all other appliances, except for the refrigerator. To reduce dryer use, hang clothes outside, use the dryer on cooler days, or use it in the morning before work.To reduce stove usage, cook outdoors, use a toaster oven instead of the kitchen oven, or cook in the microwave.

Lowering Your Water Bill

The second bill largely impacted by warm weather is the water bill. Hot summer days increase water use by family members as well as keeping gardens and lawns fresh and growing. Here are a few simple strategies to lower the water bill during the summer months.

  • Water plants during the coolest part of the day. Whether you want a green lawn or flowers and vegetables, water in the early morning or late evening. Watering midday leads to fast evaporation, losing much of its benefits. Homes with automatic sprinklers should ensure their positioning will only water the lawn and not the driveway. There are also many systems that have settings that will prevent sprinklers from coming on during or shortly after rain.
  • Choose water-resistant plants designed to grow well in your climate. Hardy plants require less water to thrive and can reduce the need to water frequently.
  • Redirect rainwater. Capturing rainwater from drainage spouts will allow you to water your garden without running up the water bill.

If you are burdened with high amounts of credit card debt and are struggling to make your payments, or you’re just not seeing your balances go down, call Timberline Financial today for a FREE financial analysis.  Our team of highly skilled professionals will evaluate your current situation to see if you may qualify for one of our debt relief programs.  You don’t have to struggle with high-interest credit card debt any longer.  Call (855) 250-8329 or get in touch with us by sending a message through our website.

A family that got travel advice from Timberline Financial.

10 Websites That Will Save You Money on Travel

The internet gives consumers wide access to information, which makes it easier to compare prices across companies and save money. Vacations can be a major summer expense. Between transportation, lodging, food, and activities, the average family will spend just under $2,000 for their summer holiday. Finding savings can be the difference between adding to current debt balances or living within your existing budget. To save money, check out the following websites, which can reduce costs on everything from flights to meals while you are on the road.

  1. Hotel Tonight saves money on last minute hotel rooms. You can reserve your room up to two weeks in advance, with a higher level of savings the closer you are to your travel dates. If you don’t mind booking accommodations at the last minute, you can save 50% or more off standard room rates.Other websites that specialize in saving you money on lodging include Airbnb and Hostelz. Airbnb offers rooms, condos and houses for rent by personal owners, which can reduce the cost of accommodations. Hostelz serves as an aggregator website for hostels, allowing you to locate and book rooms around the country. Updated hostels offer both dorm style rooms with shared bathrooms and private rooms with private bathrooms at a lower price than a traditional hotel.
  2. Secret Flying focuses on finding the lowest price on airfares. The website includes educational tools and little-known strategies on how to find discounted flights. It also includes last minute fares and “error fares,” that capture fare mistakes, which only last until the airline corrects the mistake. This can result in significantly reduced prices. The website covers both US and international flights. You can sign up for the newsletter if you want to receive notifications.Other websites that can save you money on flights include Airfare Watchdog and Hopper.  Airfare Watchdog allows you to sign up for notices on certain routes, whereas Hopper recommends when to buy tickets based on the destination.
  3. Yapta provides a tracking service for both individuals and corporations. They will track pricing on booked flights and hotel rooms and notify you if the price falls after booking. The website also posts the refund policies from third-party airlines, as well as and information on how to obtain a refund if the site finds a better price.
  4. Save money on car rentals through Auto Slash. This site compares not only rental rates across multiple companies, but also tracks online and membership discounts to apply to your rental. What makes them unique is that after you book your rental on the website, it will track any rate changes across companies, up until the day you pick up the car. It will then automatically rebook your rental at the lowest rate.Other websites that can save you money on car rentals include Transfer Car and Blabla Car. Transfer Car offers one-way rentals in the US, Australia, and New Zealand. You can rent a one-way car or campervan for as little as $1 per trip. The company partners with rental agencies that need to move a vehicle from one location to another. The site will list the maximum number of days for the transfer, and in some cases, you can pay extra for additional days. Blabla Car is a carpool service operating in Mexico and European countries. You can catch a ride with someone headed to the same destination at a very reduced rate.
  5. Cut down city transportation costs by using companies such as Uber and Lyft instead of calling a cab. Ride-sharing companies operate in major cities around the world and can save you up to 50% compared to the cost of a traditional taxi ride. Cost estimators, found on the websites, allow you to compare prices before you book.
  6. Compare transportation costs to any destination worldwide at Rome2Rio. Enter any two cities and the website produces a list of transportation options, along with estimated costs and time frames to help you choose the best method of travel for your trip.
  7. Find the lowest prices on gasoline along your route and at your destination with the Gas Buddy It is hard to know where to fill your tank when you are traveling or in an unfamiliar place. The website provides real-time gas prices around the country by relying on users to input current local prices for thousands of gas stations and convenience stores. After entering your location, the app will generate a list of nearby gas stations along with the most recent input time from a Gas Buddy user.
  8. Cruise Compete can save you hundreds on your next cruise by comparing prices across multiple cruise lines. Unlike most cruise aggregate sites, Cruise Compete is not a travel agent and you cannot book directly with the company. Instead, they partner with multiple travel agents. Once you enter your information and cruise preferences, travel agents compete for your business and email you available cruises based on your interest. Think of them as the Lending Tree for cruises.Another website that can save you money on a cruise is Last Minute Cruises, which specializes in low priced deals for sailing up to six weeks from the date of booking.
  9. Slick Deals tracks promotions from travel companies. They promote discounts on airfare, bus passes, and attraction tickets. You can save on travel costs by choosing your destination based on specials offered by companies. For example, if an airline runs a last-minute fare special, you can find it on Slick Deals.
  10. Save money on vacation packages through Costco, Groupon Getaways, or Living Social Escapes. Each company offers discounts on vacation packages, as well as savings on other aspects of travel such as hotel rooms, attractions, and restaurants. You can save up to 80% depending on the service.

If you are burdened with high amounts of credit card debt and are struggling to make your payments, or you’re just not seeing your balances go down, call Timberline Financial today for a FREE financial analysis.  Our team of highly skilled professionals will evaluate your current situation to see if you may qualify for one of our debt relief programs.  You don’t have to struggle with high-interest credit card debt any longer.  Call (855) 250-8329 or get in touch with us by sending a message through our website.

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