Saving money is a family affair. Let's talk about how you can lighten your electric expenses. Pun intended. In the average home, 25 percent of all the electricity we use is for lighting and small appliances, such as TVs, VCRs, and stereos. Here are 10 simple ways to lower your electric bill:

Turn off the lights

While you should definitely flood the outside of your home with light at night to discourage burglars, you should turn off the lights in rooms you're not using. Not just the lights, but also turn off any stereos, fans, video game systems, televisions, laptops, and all electric items in rooms not being used. Your mom always bugged you about that. She was right.

Switch to those curly fluorescent light bulbs

Technically, they're called compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL.) Sure, their initial cost is more to purchase than the old ones, but they give the same amount of light for about 25 percent less and supposedly last 10 times longer. An added bonus is that you get to brag about how green you are.

Open the windows to let in the breeze

Adjust your air conditioning to a higher setting and your heater to a lower setting. If you're cold, put on a sweater. If you're hot, the sweat will help you lose weight and clean the pores in your skin. OK, you don't have to be that drastic, but seriously, if you knew each time you bumped the dial up or down a notch that it was going to cost you an extra $100 per month, would you still change it? Use a programmable thermostat, if possible, and set it to turn on right before everyone comes home from work or school, not when the house is empty. Use ceiling fans and attic fans instead of cranking up the A/C. That being said, most people's cranky level rises as the temperature does, so you have to weigh the pros and cons and make the intentional decision to adjust the thermostat accordingly.

Wash dishes in warm water, not hot

Wash clothes in cold or warm water, not hot. It costs more money to heat water and most of the time cold water works just as well. Manufacturers are now offering cold water detergents as they have seen consumers try to cut costs on heating their water to do the laundry. Skip the heated, drying cycle for both dishes and clothes and you'll stop seeing that electric meter spinning out of control each week. Consider installing low-flow shower heads, toilets, and faucets to help you reduce your hot water usage even more.

Winterizing your home can be done any time of year

Simply check for cracks around windows, doors, and the attic that might allow air in or out. If you're paying for heat or air conditioning, make sure it stays inside the home, rather than paying for the entire neighborhood. Your mom probably said that too.

Wrap your water heater tank in a tank blanket

This helps it to keep the water you paid to heat hotter longer. A good hot water jacket should cost you less than $20, but save you hundreds each year. Standard electrical hot water systems can account for up to one-third of your electric bill. The perfect temperature to keep the dial set is about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to lower it to vacation setting when you go out-of-town for more than two days.

Contact your local gas and electric companies to see if they offer special programs

Some companies offer money-saving programs for those with energy-guzzling medical needs, or those with low incomes. Many offer free energy audits.

Take shorter showers

Turn off running water while brushing your teeth or shaving.

Insulate your ceiling or attic

About 25 to 35 percent of heat loss is through the ceiling and roof space.

Have you ever wondered how much money you'd save if you actually unplugged electrical appliances from the wall, rather than simply turning them off? As it turns out, anything plugged in will drain some juice and cost you more money. It's a phenomenon called leaking or standby power. Setting up a smart power strip with auto-switching can help you conserve on electricity on used devices and literally kill a watt. Yep, another pun intended.

Some say the amount of money saved isn't huge and to not be a fanatic. On the other hand, every penny counts in this tough economy. If you're not using the bread maker that sits on the kitchen counter every day, simply unplug it until your next baking session.

A new Google product called PowerMeter allowed customers of a few electric and gas suppliers to track their consumption in real time for free during a pilot program that lasted until September 2011. Their study demonstrated that consumers were willing to make changes to their daily electricity consumption once they realized there were financial benefits to even small changes.

Find the meters located in your home. Start monitoring them to evaluate your daily patterns. If you live in one of the states in the USA that is deregulated, then be sure to shop around and choose a supplier that will help you save money.

Solar energy still has a long way to go before it is an affordable option for homeowners, but it's worth considering if you're adventurous and motivated. Until then, talk with everyone who lives in your home to see what little changes you can make to lighten your electrical expenses.

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