Communicate cheaplyAlways look for ways to maximize savings, such as cutting the phone bill. After switching from a local phone service to Vonage last year, one person pocketed an extra $240, or $20 per month. Thanks to broadband Internet phone systems like Vonage and Skype -- a service that allows free member-to-member calls and long distance for a penny per minute -- thrifty consumers can all but forget about footing landline bills.What it's worth: Households that eliminate a landline and stick with cell phone plans can cut $30 per month out of their utilities budget, and those who trade cell phones for broadband phone systems can save even more. Shove $40 per month, or $480 at the end of the year, in a tax-favored savings plan for 15 years, and here's what happens:
- A one-time deposit of $480 grows to $1,324.
- Annual deposits of $480 add up to $12,062.
Weatherize the houseYour kid's college fund could be flying out the window. Consumers save 3 percent on their heating bill for every degree they turn down the thermostat. They also lose money by not replacing the weather stripping around their windows, washing clothes in hot water and not insulating pipes around their water heater.What it's worth: It depends on location. In states with moderate weather year round, tightening the insulation screws may have little effect. For those living in more extreme climates, simple steps like installing heating and air conditioning timers can save hundreds. According to a study by the Energy Information Administration -- the U.S. government's official source for energy statistics -- the average household spent $1,137 last winter in heat alone. Lowering the thermostat just 5 degrees in winter means reducing costs by 15 percent, or saving $170.55 after one season.
- A one-time deposit of $170.55 grows to $471.
- Annual deposits add up to $4,286 in 15 years.