Many people don’t realize that going on vacation can be a money saving exercise. If you’re careful, you can save enough money to offset some of the cost of your vacation. How does this work? While you’re not at home, your house is still spending money unless you make it stop. Here are some tips to make your house save money while you’re away.
Turn off and unplug everything that’s not critical: Unless it’s keeping things alive like a fish tank or keeping food from spoiling like a refrigerator, it can be turned off. Things like TV’s, cable boxes, and other electronics draw power as long as they’re plugged in, even if they aren’t on. Unplug them from the wall or turn off any power strips they’re connected to. (Bonus: You help prevent damage in the event of storms or electrical surges while you are away.) Double check outside lights, ceiling fans, alarm clocks and other easy to miss power suckers before you leave. Leave your answering machine and phone plugged in, though, so you get your messages, and leave a couple of lamps on timers for security.
Turn off the hot water heater: Find the breaker and pull it, or turn it off manually at the unit. You don’t need hot water while you’re on vacation, yet the water heater keeps on heating whether you’re there to enjoy it or not. Water heaters draw a lot of power, so one that’s completely turned off will save you big money.
Turn off the heat or AC, if you can: If you travel during temperate weather, you can probably turn off the heat or AC altogether. However, if you travel during periods of cold, you’ll need to leave the heat on to prevent frozen pipes. During extremely hot weather, you’ll need to leave the AC on to prevent things like medications, house plants, and food in the pantry from becoming too warm and spoiling/dying. However, you can turn the heat/AC way up or down to levels you wouldn’t like if you were home, thus saving at least some money.
Turn off the water: Turn off your water, either at the main shut off valve in your home or out at the meter. If you have any leaky faucets or toilets, they won’t drip while you’re gone and waste money (get them fixed when you get home, though). Also, if you do have a pipe burst or an ice maker go nuts, you won’t have nearly the cleanup problem (or the bill) that you would had the water been left on.
The special case of the refrigerator/freezer: If you’re going to be gone for several weeks, it may be worth it to turn off the refrigerator/freezer. Empty it completely and defrost it before you go to prevent unpleasant smells and water spills when you get home. Be aware that a refrigerator takes 24-48 hours to cool completely, so you may have to eat out for a couple of days until you can shop and bring your food home to a fridge that’s a safe temperature. If you’re only going to be gone for a week or so, the effort involved probably isn’t worth it. Do turn off your ice maker, though, to prevent it from making ice the whole time you’re gone or going haywire and leaking all over everything.
Use up all your perishables before you leave: Nothing wastes money faster than food that spoils and goes uneaten. Anything that will expire before you return needs to get eaten, put in the freezer, or taken with you. Plan meals during the week before you leave to make certain all your perishables get used.
Shut all blinds and curtains: Not only does this provide security, it keeps heat and cold out (or in, depending on the season), meaning your AC/heater won’t have to work as hard if you need to leave it on.
The simple act of not being home and using power and water saves a lot of money. However, you can save a lot more by using these simple ideas. We do all of these things before we leave on trips and over a week we usually save at least $50-100, depending on the season. That’s enough to pay for a night at a hotel or some meals out. You might save more if you have a bigger home or live in a less favorable climate than we do. We come home to much lower power and water bills, and that makes a vacation all the sweeter.