Play it Cool
To make a serious dent in your monthly utility bill, consider zeroing in on the biggest energy hog: your thermostat. The heating and cooling of your house accounts for half of your energy bill, especially when you're using an outdated system. Homeowners who upgraded to the Nest Learning Thermostat saved an average of 15 percent on cooling bills thanks to the system's abilities to be programmed from a phone, learn preferences and daily habits, and recognize via sensors when no one is home. Add another 12 percent saved on heating in winter, and the savings you earn pay off this smart home accessory in just two years. Everything after can go right into your vacation fund. Available on Amazon; $249.
Related: 7 Tricks for Keeping Cool Without AC
Blades of Glory
In 1882, Philip Diehl ripped out a sewing machine motor, rigged it up, and called it a ceiling fan. We've come a long way since then, but these ingenious fixtures are still one of the cheapest ways to cool a room. The Westinghouse Comet fan, backed by a lifetime warranty, boasts a powerful steel motor designed to boost airflow efficiency, reducing electricity use and slashing your utility bill. The fan's sleek pewter finish and frosted glass fixture complete the modern twist on an old classic. Available on Amazon; $115 and free shipping.
Orbit Watering Timer
Whether you're living in the midst of a drought or just trying to shave costs off your water bill, you'll enjoy Orbit's Mechanical Watering Timer water-saving properties. It attaches directly to your hose bib and can be programmed to switch off the water to the sprinkler once your lawn has had enough. This easy set-it-and-forget-it add-on will help you stop overwatering and start saving—all while maintaining a prize-worthy lawn. Available on Amazon; $13.99.
Top of the Line
Running the dryer, especially during the summer months, zaps a lot of power, raises energy bills, and increases the indoor temperature. Give your appliance, and yourself, a break by line-drying your clothes and sheets instead. Not only will you save money, but the reduced stress on your clothes and linens means they will look staying looking like new for longer. Choose a clothesline that can be installed indoors or out, like this one, and consider purchasing a convenient catchall for clothespins that can hang alongside your drying duds. Available on Amazon; $4.99.
Cover a Lot of Ground
Save money on your water bill without leaving your precious plants to wilt with thirst simply by spreading a layer of mulch over your garden beds. The layer of insulation it creates will inhibit ground water from evaporating in the sunlight. As a result, each rainfall or sprinkler session lasts longer, helping limit the number of times in a month you need to be watering—not to mention the cost of your water bill. To reap the benefits of mulch in your own flower beds this season, spread a thick layer of wet newspaper over your soil and top it with at least an inch of mulch. The paper will decompose, leaving you with richer soil. Available at Amazon; $15.
A Smart Compromise
Experts are right to point out that portable air conditioners often fail to match the performance of cheaper-to-buy window units. But in many instances, a portable AC may be your only option—say, in a basement lacking full-size windows. Plus, while even the lightest window units are a hassle to move, portable air conditioners are easy to wheel between rooms. So if you wanted air conditioning in three separate rooms but didn't want to outfit each with its own window AC, a portable unit like the Haier HPN12XCM would offer a smart compromise. Available at Amazon; $445.
Shower with Less Power
To slash water and electric bills in one fell swoop, bring home a more efficient showerhead. Those marked with an EPA-approved WaterSense label are designed to outperform older models and can save an average family nearly 3,000 gallons of water per year. And because there's less water pumping through the showerhead, there's less work for your water heater to do, which translates to additional savings. WaterSense labeled showerheads come in many different styles, at many different price points. Available on HomeDepot.com; $36.33.
If you have the money to hire a handyman for every household woe, go ahead. But if you want to hang on to your cash and exercise some self-sufficiency, check out these clever products that solve a million and one little problems around the house. Go now!