Top 10 Tricks for Big DIY Savings

Buy firewood in the spring and season it yourself to save $100 per cordBuy firewood in the spring and season it yourself to save $100 per cordRemember when the tightfistedness of relatives raised during the Depression was amusing? Our grandparents' certificates of deposit and plastic couch protectors seemed downright quaint when our own home-equity and retirement portfolios were ballooning. Suddenly, though, the pot-roast-and-potatoes ethic doesn't seem quite so kooky. We'd even say it's worthy of a salute. So tip your cap to all your penny-pinching kin and read on for the best why-didn't-I-think-of-that ideas for shrinking your household expenses.

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1. Shorten your dryer-vent hose. First, disconnect it and vacuum it out. Then trim the hose length so that it's just long enough for you to pull the dryer a few feet out from the wall. A short and unobstructed line makes your dryer run more efficiently. Cost: Free. Savings: $25 a year on electric, gas, or propane. Bonus: Your clothes will dry about 20 percent faster.

2. Borrow specialized tools-gas-powered post-hole diggers and table-mounted routers-from a DIYer in your area for a small fee. Go to Zilok for far better deals than rental retailers offer. Cost: $1 to $100 per day. Savings: $50 or more for the same tool at a rental center.Bonus: Getting to know fellow renovators in your neighborhood with whom you can swap tips.

3. Close closet doors to lower the square footage you're heating (and cooling). Shuttering closets along exterior walls also helps to insulate the house.Cost: Zilch-although it may take a few minutes for your clothes to reach room temperature before you put them on. Savings: About $50 per year off your energy bills. Bonus: You and your guests won't see closet clutter.

RELATED: Top 10 Ways to Shrink Energy Bills

4. Choose one neutral trim paint for the entire house rather than buying a gallon of a particular color for each room and using only a fraction of each can. Cost: You have to forgo the trendy color combos in the paint manufacturer brochures.Savings: $50 on paint for three rooms. Bonus: Crisp white trim is always in style, and you'll never have to rummage around for the right can for touch-ups.

5. Sign up for your utility's time-of-use plan. Many regional power suppliers offer rebates for reducing electricity consumption during periods of peak demand. Cost: Washing clothes and dishes at night during nonpeak hours, and turning the thermostat up or down a couple of degrees during a cold snap (or heat wave).Savings: $25 to $50 per month on your energy bills, depending on the season. Bonus: You're easing the strain on the power grid-and lowering the odds of a blackout.

6. Make your own cleaning solutions using inexpensive kitchen staples, such as white vinegar and baking soda. See The Green Guide for recipes. Cost: A few bucks in extra pantry supplies. Savings: $50 or more per year on commercial cleaners. Bonus: Cleaners that don't contain harsh chemicals are healthier for your household.

RELATED: 10 Uses for Vinegar

7. Turn down the thermostat on your water heater.
It's probably set at 140 degrees F to shorten the wait time for a steamy shower. But 120 or even 110 degrees is plenty hot. Cost: A few minutes with a screwdriver in the utility room.Savings: $30 or more per year on gas, oil, electricity, or propane. Bonus: Your kids are less likely to scald themselves if the max water temperature is 120.

8. Install dimmer switches and use energy-efficient halogen bulbs, rather than incandescents. Dimmable CFLs are even thriftier, but some flicker at low power. Cost: $10 per switch at The Home Depot, $5 for a Philips Halogena bulb at $20 per fixture on electricity over three years. Bonus: Halogens tend to outlast incandescents, saving more money over the long haul on replacement lights.

9. Replace central-air-conditioning filters
every month during the summer to keep air flowing freely through the ducts and reduce strain on the blower motor. Cost: About $11 for three filters. Savings: $40 or more on cooling costs. Bonus: New filters keep dust and mold from collecting on condenser coils, extending the equipment's life.

10. Get your chimney swept in the summer for an off-season price. Cost: Just a little forethought. Savings: $50 per flue.Bonus: Get the job done at your convenience because sweeps' schedules are wide open.

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