Run Your House for Less

Earning your degree while managing a family and household can be extremely challenging. There are only so many hours in a day, so sometimes we choose an easier path (like stopping for takeout), rather than one that makes more financial sense (such as making dinner at home). Rather than feel guilty about these occasional “misdemeanors,” reduce some of your routine household expenses to accommodate them. Since many household expenses stay about the same each month, switching to a cheaper alternative or eliminating the service altogether will provide lasting savings, and a little cushion for those occasional treats.

Here are few ideas to get you started:

Cable TV

Average monthly cable bills are expected to grow to $123 next year—that’s a whopping $1,476 per year! Contact your cable provider and ask if they have a more affordable option, and/or negotiate a lower rate by telling them you are considering a competitor. If that doesn’t work, think about eliminating cable altogether. There are more ways than ever to access broadcasts for free: an HDTV antenna, streaming video players like Roku or Apple TV, websites like Hulu that let you watch full episodes of popular shows, or the latest mobile apps.

Subscriptions and Memberships

Make a list of all the subscriptions and membership fees your family members pay each month, such as magazine and newspaper subscriptions, gyms, clubs, sports organizations or professional associations. Prioritize which ones are the most important for your family and eliminate the rest, particularly if some of the services or information is available free, online or at your local library.

Cleaning and Personal Care

According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, households spent an average of $610 a year on housekeeping supplies and $628 on personal care products and services. Cut down on these expenses by making your own cleaners using inexpensive ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar. Your state’s Cooperative Extension services may provide some great free tips and recipes for making low-cost, natural products. Save on haircuts and other personal care expenses by taking advantage of free coupon services like Groupon.

Heating and Cooling

Every degree you set back your thermostat will save you from 1 to 3 percent on your heating/cooling bill. Consider turning down the temperature of your hot water heater and setting a time limit for showers—reducing showers to five minutes or less will save thousands of gallons of hot water each year. If you have ceiling fans, use them to help with cooling, and, by reversing the rotation of the blades, heating as well. Some states and utility companies offer free energy audits which suggest the best ways to improve energy efficiency in heating and cooling of your home.

These are just a few ways to reduce your financial stress and make your dollars stretch. Have more ideas? Email them to and they will be posted on $

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