Having trouble "adulting"? Many young adults (read: recent college grads out in the work world for the first time without a school or parent safety net) have a hard time when faced with a problem they've never encountered before. You may remember your parents dealing with bills and broken appliances, but you never gave them a second thought because you didn't need to. Well, now that you're on your own, we have some answers to common adulting questions about saving energy and saving money.

Q: Do I need to change my thermostat setting during the day?

A: Yes! Heating and cooling are the largest contributors to your energy bill, so making a change here is one of the biggest moves you can make to save money on your energy bills. Turn your air conditioning up (or your heat down) 7-10 degrees during the day to save 10 percent on your monthly bills. Use a programmable or smart thermostat to make this process automatic.

Q: Should I unplug my chargers when not in use?

A: No. Your parents may have told you that many electronics and appliances (ones that have a glowing light all the time) consume electricity even when they're turned off. This is called vampire energy because the machines are sucking energy even though you're not using them. However, newer electronics are required to use 1 watt or less in standby mode, so you're not wasting much energy or money at all by leaving your chargers plugged in all the time.

Q: How do I buy a new refrigerator?

A: You need to figure out a few things for any appliance you buy:

  • Size: This is based on your kitchen dimensions and/or household needs.
  • Features: Think access to water/ice in the door or freezer on the bottom.
  • Budget: This may be the overriding factor!

No matter how big or small, how fancy or simple you go, make sure you choose an appliance that's Energy Star rated. Products with the blue Energy Star label meet rigorous performance and efficiency standards, so they are your best bet for saving energy and money.

Q: How do I save money on food bills?

A: Buying food at the grocery is cheaper than always eating out. But buying food then not eating it is a waste of resources and money, so have a plan when you go to the grocery. You can start small, such as planning to eat breakfast at home rather than stopping at the drive-thru for a breakfast sandwich. Or you can make dinner, then plan on taking the leftovers for lunch the next day. Making your own food is also healthier, as you'll know exactly what goes into the meal you're eating.

Q: What are some free ways to save money on my energy bills?

A: Try these 10 tips to save energy that won't cost you a penny!

  • Close your blinds or curtains during summer days to keep the heat out. In winter, open them to let the warm sun in.
  • Make sure furniture isn't blocking air vents so you're accessing all the flowing air.
  • Don't put your TV near the thermometer. Heat from the television will increase the temperature and cause the air conditioning to turn on when you don't need it.
  • Roll up a towel and stuff it under a door or window to stop a draft.
  • Turn off a ceiling fan when you leave the room. Fans cool people, not the air. Also, be sure to reverse the direction of the fan in winter so it pushes down the warm air.
  • Use small appliances when you can. For example, the microwave doesn't heat up the house and uses less energy than the stove or oven.
  • Turn off lights, the television and other electronics when you're not using them.
  • Use less water: take shorter showers, turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth or shaving, don't run the water when washing dishes, etc.
  • Wash your laundry with cold water instead of hot. Many detergents are formulated for cold water now.
  • Walk to the grocery store when you can, and plans your errands so you aren’t backtracking and wasting gasoline.

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