The cost of utilities is getting ridiculous, at least in Fort Collins where I live. I almost had a heart attack when I moved into a smaller place a few months ago, and the first electric bill I got was over twice as much as I was used to paying! Since then, I've become militant about saving as much energy as possible, in an effort to keep my entire paycheck from going to utility bills. It's taken some research and minor lifestyle changes, but I think I'm finally making a dent in the electric bill! So I thought I'd share some interesting energy-saving tips with you that you might not have thought of before, and they won't even cost you an arm and a leg!

  • Unplug your phone charger when you're not using it.

    When I got my latest cell phone, the first thing I did was plug it in to charge. Once it was done charging, a message popped up on the screen that said "Fully Charged. Unplug the charger from the outlet to conserve energy." I couldn't believe I'd never thought of that before. It makes total sense that the charger would still be drawing power, even if the phone is charged, or even when the phone isn't plugged into the charger. So once your phone is done charging, just unplug the charger from the outlet. It's one of those easy little things you can do every day that adds up in the long run.

  • Use energy-saving settings on your computer.

    Did you know you can control how much power your computer uses? It's true! Every computer has adjustable power settings you can customize. You can tell your computer to switch off your monitor (or even shut down entirely) after a certain amount of inactivity. Of course, just manually turning off your computer after each use works too!

  • Use small cooking appliances when possible, instead of the range.

    A microwave or toaster-oven uses less power than the oven or the stove. The size of the appliance pretty much says it all, in this case: smaller = less power. Putting it that way makes it seem pretty obvious, but it's something that I, for one, never really thought of until recently.

  • Use cold water whenever possible.

    It's takes more energy to heat and pump hot water than cold water. For the most part, I wash all my clothes in cold water. There are even laundry detergents specially designed for cold water use.

    Here's another thing I just learned recently: using cold water while running your garbage disposal not only saves energy, but also helps solidify grease; so it moves more easily through your plumbing, instead of gumming everything up.  Cool, huh?

  • Going on vacation? Unplug (almost) EVERYTHING.

    This is something I actually learned in college, because the owners of the apartment I lived in required tenents to do this.

    If you're going on vacation, and planning on being gone longer than a day or two, there's no reason to keep your coffee pot plugged in. In fact, there's no reason to keep anything plugged in; unless it's something that your pets rely on, like a fish tank.

    Before my fiance and I leave for a long weekend, I unplug all the kitchen appliances, all the bathroom appliances, and even all the TV's and entertainment devices. I feel like if something is plugged in, it's using at least a little bit of power. If you're not home to use it, you may as well unplug it!