10 Bad Habits Around the House That Cost You Money

HGTV Magazine explains why it pays — literally — to quit these around-the-house mistakes.


Photo by: Chris Long

Chris Long

By: Sarah Grossbart

Yanking the cord to unplug the vacuum

Why it's bad: Repeatedly tugging the vacuum cord instead of bending down and pulling the plug out of the socket could cause a whole host of damage. The cord could split open, a wire inside could break, the plug could bend out of whack, or you could even crack the outlet itself-all of which could lead to pricey repairs.

Always washing clothes in hot water
Why it's bad: Only whites, on occasion, and your dirtiest loads, like oil-splattered clothes, require a high-temp setting. For all others, including bloodstained items, cold water will do the trick. And because most of the electricity your washer uses goes toward heating the water, you can save up to 50 cents a load if you set the dial to "colors" or the cold water setting. At four loads a week, that's $104 a year!

Overfilling the refrigerator
Why it's bad: A fridge functions at its best when it's about three-quarters full. When shelves are stuffed to the brim -- or if items are blocking the vents in the top of the refrigerator where the cold air is released -- it can lead to poor circulation. Translation: Your food will spoil faster.



Photo by: Chris Long

Chris Long

Running the dishwasher half-empty
Why it's bad: Your machine uses the same amount of water and electricity no matter how many dishes are inside, so two half loads require double the water and electricity of a single full one. If you're desperate to get a small load clean, just wash those dishes by hand, but limit wastefulness by turning off the tap while you're soaping everything up.

Flushing cleaning wipes
Why it's bad: Toilet tissue breaks down quickly, but baby wipes and household cleaning wipes are often made of woven fibers that are more likely to maintain their composition in drainage systems. Even some "flushable" wipes can cause clogs. That could lead to blockages in your home's drain lines or, if your neighbors are doing the same, affect your entire municipality's sewage system.

Slamming the microwave door
Why it's bad: Inside most microwave doors is a set of switches that must close in the proper order. When the door is shoved shut, that sequence could change, which can blow the microwave's main fuse. You also risk cracking the plastic switches that hold the door in place. Either way, it can damage your appliance.



Photo by: Chris Long

Chris Long

Letting food drip onto the bottom of the oven
Why it's bad:
The next time you turn on the heat, those grease splatters and crumbs could cause your oven to smoke, which can lead to funky-tasting food, bad odors or a discolored interior. They can even lead to oven fires. To be safe -- and extend the life of your appliance -- wipe up spills within a few hours (once the oven cools) and clean the interior three to four times a year, either by hand or using the self-cleaning cycle.

Leaving the cable box plugged in
Why it's bad: Experts say two cable-and-DVR sets can gobble up more electricity each year than a new fridge. So if you have boxes on little-used TVs or are heading out of town for a while and don't need your DVR, turn them off completely. FYI: That means you'll need to actually pull the plug. If the box is lit up in any way -- if the clock is on, for example -- it's still running at near-full power, even if you pressed the off button.



Photo by: Chris Long

Chris Long

Jam-packing the blender
Why it's bad:
Overfilling can not only tax the motor but also cause the blender to leak or overheat and shut off. Once that happens, you may need to splurge on a replacement or a costly repair. So how much can you stuff in there? Check your blender's manual to be sure, and when tossing in ingredients, add liquids first, then solids, then frozen foods, which is easiest on the appliance.

Not tightening the car's gas cap until it clicks
Why it's bad:
This could cost you and the environment, since a loose cap can release harmful vapors into the atmosphere. If you do forget to click, most newer cars alert you by illuminating the check-engine light. But if you're not sure what the problem is, that could send you scrambling to see a mechanic.

Our Experts: Nancy Bock, Senior Vice President of Meetings and Education at the American Cleaning Institute; Mary Beth Brault, senior Manager of Corporate Communications at Hamilton Beach; Ryan Brooks, associate Consumer Marketing manager at Oster; Noah Horowitz, Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council; Don Sherman, technical director at Car and Driver; Charles R. White, Vice President of Technical and Code Services for the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors-National Association; Chris Zeisler, Appliance Repair Specialist at RepairClinic.com; Mary Zeitler, Consumer Scientist at Whirlpool's Institute of Fabric Science

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