Bills are pretty much the bane of human existence. Sure, they might have seemed like light-years away back in high school, but now you are stuck with dealing with them yourself. Yes, we're talking water, gas, electricity, cable, internet – all that stuff your folks made seem like a doddle that is now making you learn the struggles of having champagne taste on a beer budget. However, college life doesn't necessarily mean subsiding on baked beans and eating ramen every night or feeling like you live in an igloo. Bankier Apartments has asked current students to share their top tips on how to save on your utility bills as a college student.
These may not be tons of fun. However, they'll help stretch your budget and give you a bit more cash to play with. What's more, you'll be doing your part in saving our beautiful – and only – planet. It's a win-win all around!
Give your thermostat a nudge
Since you're probably sick to death of everyone telling you to "just wear more clothes" when you are cold (regardless of how reasonable that advice might be), let's get this one out of the way right off the bat. Cranking it up a few degrees might be incredibly tempting on the cold days, but take a moment to work out if an extra layer or two could warm you up comfortably instead. Setting your thermostat back 10-15ºC while asleep or away can cut your annual utility costs by around 10%.
Lower your thermostat and wrap up warm.
Scope out all of the best providers and tariffs
When they move into a student rental, many students end up sticking with their current supplier, paying over the odds for gas, electricity, and broadband, and missing out on the best deals. We get it – energy bills are hardly the most exciting thing about university life. But it's a costly mistake. Switching energy providers is relatively easy, quick, and could save you hundreds of dollars every year. Plus, you don't have to worry about losing your supply in the process – that won't happen.
Using comparison services online, you can assess all your options and get quotes from a range of local utility companies to find a better deal from your current supplier. All you need to hand is:
- Your address/postcode
- Your current supplier
- Basic details about your accommodation (like how many bedrooms there are)
For a more accurate quote, find out what tariff you are on and what your annual usage is. This you will find either on an old energy bill or in your online account.
Flip the switch
"Remember to turn the lights off when you leave the room!"
Ahh, the all too familiar phrase. You've likely heard this one from all the adults in your house while growing up (perhaps way too many times), and it stuck in your mind even after they waved you off to college. That's fortunate, as it's going to save you some pretty pennies, especially if you live in an older building that hasn't yet switched to incandescent bulbs.
When you are not in your room or leave your apartment, your lights do not need to be on. If you know you'll be staying up late to study, go to a nearby library or a café. This way, you can leave your lights (and your air conditioning) off at home. And, if it's summer and the days are longer, you might not even need to turn on your lights until later in the evening.
Also, if you haven't already, consider swapping out the lightbulbs in your most-used light fixtures. This is one of the easiest ways students can save on their energy bills. Compact fluorescent and LED bulbs that bear the Energy Star label can help you save up to $75 per year.
Unplug your electronics
Unplug your electronic gadgets when not in use, and make it a habit. However, while unplugging your phone charger when done charging can be a piece of cake, other devices can be a bit more of a hassle. By now, most of us have heard of the so-called "energy vampires". Turn off the lights in your TV room, and you'll likely still see a glaring pair of eyes peering through the darkness. Smart TVs, cable boxes, printers, DVD players, laptop computers – these are all sneaky electronic vampires that never truly power off. Instead, they continue to draw small amounts of power even when they're in sleep mode. And our homes are packed with them. While you may not be able to slay them with a stake through the heart, these vampires are possible to manage more easily with the help of a smart power strip. For as little as $20, you'll be able to save up to $100 to $200 a year, making it one of the best ways to save on your utility bills as a college student.
Opt for a shared living space
This is pretty much a no-brainer. When sharing a flat with your friends, no one bears the full weight. But these kinds of living situations offer the potential to save across your entire budget, not just your utility bills. So, besides cutting utility bills by half, you'll be splitting your rent, sharing furnishing costs and household essentials expenses. You can even reduce the cost of groceries or share a storage unit and split storage expenses if you need extra space for your possessions.
Sharing a living space means sharing utility bills.
Shorten your shower time
Are you a get-in-and-get-out shower-taker, or do your showers tend to be on the long and scalding side? If the latter's more your thing, we get it. Showers aren't just a utilitarian to-do to you – they are an act of serene self-care – especially when you take your time and include those few special steps that turn the whole thing into a fully realized ritual. But it turns out we should really be putting a time limit on our showering activities. As we all know, water is a scarce resource and a precious commodity. What's more, while contributing to the global water conservation efforts, we would also be making a sizable dent in our overall energy bills. If you're up for it, there are a few ways to go about it. Try:
- Trimming a few minutes off your shower time (two minutes can cut your water usage by five gallons);
- Turning the water off while shampooing or shaving and only using it for rinsing;
- Replacing your showerhead with one certified to meet efficiency criteria set by EPA or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;
- Adjusting the temperature on your water heater (set it to 120 degrees);
- Cutting back on bathing if you don’t need to;
Shortening your shower time can help you save on your utility bills as a college student.
While energy-efficient appliances practically pay for themselves over time, not everyone can foot the bill for an entirely new water heater, washer, or dryer – students especially. So, you may have to find some way around it. For instance, when doing your laundry, stick to warm or cold water, only do full loads, and consider air drying indoors or out instead of using the dryer. Also, call to ask about discount rates. Some utility providers charge less at certain times of day (or night), making laundry and other energy-intensive chores roughly 5% to 25% cheaper during off-peak times. These off-peak hours tend to be between 10 pm and 8 am, when power demands are at their lowest. Using water or appliances at one time instead of another is one of the simplest ways to save on your utility bills as a college student.