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12 Ways to Save on Household Expenses

These easy, DIY tips add up to big savings

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1. On the bubble

Insulate odd-shaped and out-of-the-way windows by cutting a piece of bubble wrap to fit the window and spraying the inside of the window with a little water. Apply the bubble wrap with the bubble side on the glass. It will cling to the glass for weeks and comes off easily.

2. Drafty measure

Use lighted incense sticks to detect leaks around windows and doors where you're losing heat in the wintertime and cool air in the summer. Gaps usually can be sealed with inexpensive DIY weather-stripping kits or by caulking.

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3. Made in the shade

Save as much as 10 percent on air-conditioning costs by putting an awning or planting a shade tree over the AC condenser or window unit. But be sure not to surround them too closely, which could restrict airflow and increase electricity use.

4. Cracks in foundation

Avoid costly repairs and damage to your home's foundation by detecting leaks and cracks early. Tape a plastic garbage bag to areas of the basement floor or walls where you suspect moisture is seeping in; remove it the next day. If you see an outline of the bag, you have a moisture problem.

5. Leak finder

Pour a packet of grape Kool-Aid in the tank of your toilet. If the water in the toilet bowl turns purple without flushing, your toilet is slowly leaking water — and money — down the drain. Installing a new flap or seal usually fixes it.

6. Cheap air

Use perfume sample inserts from magazines as bathroom air fresheners by putting them inside the cardboard toilet paper roll.

7. Sell your home

The best day of the week to list your home for sale is Friday, and the worst is Sunday, according to an analysis by a major real-estate brokerage firm. Properties listed on Fridays sell faster and bring higher prices.

8. Kill fleas for free

Kill fleas and flea eggs embedded in pillows, blankets or throw rugs by placing infested items in a plastic garbage bag and putting the bag in your car — with the windows rolled up — for a couple of hours when it's hot outside. The extreme heat will kill all the fleas. Obviously, do not try to kill fleas on your pet using this method.

9. Dry cleaner swap

Save on dry cleaning by using home dry-cleaning kits from Dryel or Woolite in your dryer. They are ideal for freshening sweaters and slacks.

10. Stove vs. microwave

A microwave is more efficient for reheating small portions than a stove top, using 80 percent less energy and costing about three times less, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. To make a stove heat better, match the size of the burner to the pot.

11. Use less water per flush

Placing a 1- or 2-liter bottle filled with either sand or water in your toilet tank will help you use less water per flush. Or you can fill your toilet tank with cold water collected from showers and baths while you are waiting for the water to get hot.

12. Visit ReStores

For inexpensive home improvement and building materials — both new and used — check out Habitat for Humanity ReStores operated by the nonprofit organization. More than 800 ReStores throughout the U.S. and Canada sell donated materials and supplies to the general public.

Contributors to 99 Great Ways to Save 2013: Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, Tara Finnegan Coates, Joan Rattner Heilman, Stacy Julien, Megan Lawson, Marlece Lusk, Bob Lyford, Anne Masters, Jeff Yeager and AARP members like you.

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