Want to un-shrink that paycheck? Start with new light bulbs
By Jay Keller
The good news for retailers also suggest that families are finding ways to make up ground after Social Security withholding rates for employees (6.2%) and self-employment tax (12.4%) returned to the original levels unseen since 2010.
With the two-percent payroll tax holiday ending in Dec. 2012, consumer advocates stressed that families should root out excess spending in their own budgets to handle shrinking paychecks.
In previous months, retail sales took a hit as much of the consumer spending was focused on services, especially on the cost to heat homes, light rooms and upkeep during a harsh winter in most regions.
So how are some families making home improvements to lower energy bills and reduce overall consumption?
While the answer may not get back the estimated $4,500 a household with two high-paid workers loses in 2013, upgrades around the house could help make up at least $1,000, the average hit an individual earning $50,000 will take this year.
With our goal to make up $1,000 a year, a home-energy audit is the next logical step. Professional services will provide the most thorough inspection but a do-it-yourself approach will produce the most cost savings.
Free online tools, such as those offered by the Dept. of Energy and Home Depot to name a few, show the average consumer can save $1,445 a year with 10 tweaks to appliances that suck energy and four that drain water.
Changing the type of light bulbs used in your home can save around $350 annually as compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) consume up to 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Using LED bulbs can save you more.
The average household spends $836 annually on heating or cooling bills, so switching a programmable thermostat can save 12.3 percent.
So, if spend $150 per month on your energy bill, that equates a $221 savings annually.
Replacing standard windows with low-emissive windows saves $126 while installing new insulation and caulking cuts $180 per year.
Another $288 can be saved if are looking to replace appliances with Energy Star products. These cuts would come from washing machines, dish washers, refrigerators, central air, heating, light fixtures and water heaters.
A family of four can save an estimated $380 per year by replacing toilets with low-flow WaterSense toilets.
Add to that another $52 by replacing faucets, showerheads and using an Energy Star-rated air purifier will cut $26 annually.