Save $100 On Electricity by Unplugging Devices? I Won’t Waste My Time

Ugh! Some people can be so short sighted.

It drives me insane!

This article over at Cheapism says you can “save an easy $100 [a year] by unplugging these devices”.

News flash… you’re wasting your time. 

Top 5 Electricity Vampires And Their Cost

According to Cheapism, the top 5 offenders for phantom energy use are digital cable boxes with DVR ($41.88/yr), plasma TVs ($9.35/yr),  desktop computers ($20.36 in sleep mode), laptop computers ($8.58/yr) and inkjet fax machines ($5.12/yr).

Related: Save hundreds per year on your cable bill with this simple trick.

What is phantom energy use? Believe it or not, even when electrical items are turned off, they still consume energy if they’re plugged in.

I don’t know that this information shocks anyone today, but if it does you need to crawl out from under the rock you’ve been living under. In the big scheme of things, this energy use is so minuscule that it isn’t worth thinking about.

Let’s find out why!

I’m Lazy And I’m OK With That

You know what, I’m going to come out and admit it. When it comes to phantom energy use, I’m too lazy to go unplug everything when I’m not using it.

Why should I go around unplugging everything to save $0.2739 per day. That’s right 27.39 CENTS per day. I think I could find a quarter in a parking lot faster than I could go around unplugging everything in my home that I’m not using.

My Time Is Worth More Than $100 A Year

Speaking of the time it takes to unplug everything, my time is worth way more than the 27 cents I’d save each day. Even if I was wasting my time watching some of the most awful shows on TV, like Teen Mom, I’d still value my time at more than 27 cents.

The Inconvenience Outweighs The Savings

If I was really broke, I could see trying to find 27 pennies a day in my electrical outlets.

However, once I realized that the inconvenience of forgetting to plug something back in could easily cost me more than the 27 pennies I saved that day, I think I’d quickly go back to leaving everything plugged in.

If I forgot to plug my alarm clock in before bed and properly set the alarm, I could easily miss a shift at work which would cost me more than the $100 I’d save in a whole entire year of performing the insane ritual of unplugging my alarm clock after I wake up each morning.

Even worse is the inconvenience caused by forgetting to plug my DVR in before it is supposed to record my favorite TV shows. What is the point of having a DVR if you don’t leave it plugged in?

The whole purpose of a DVR is so you don’t have to remember to record these shows. Now you have to remember to plug in your DVR to record it. *Sigh*

I can see myself plugging my cell phone into the cell phone charger before going to bed and waking up the next morning to a dead phone because I forgot to plug the charger into the wall. That’d easily ruin a whole entire day, all to save 27 cents a day… No thanks!

Spend Your Time Doing More Constructive Things With Your Life

Instead of unplugging all of your electrical devices or watching Teen Mom, chances are you could do more constructive things with your time that will be worth more than 27 cents a day.

Even at minimum wage, it only take 5 minutes to earn 50 cents which might end up being 27 cents after tax. If you’re paid more than minimum wage, working an extra 1 to 5 minutes could easily cover your extra electric costs.

You could change people’s lives by helping others if you took the 5 minutes it takes each day to unplug your devices and helped educate others on a topic you’re passionate about. Heck, spend 5 minutes reading my site and I bet you could find a way to save $100 a year! 

Related: 123 Ways To Save Money!

I’ll Admit I Do This When Leaving For Vacation…

OK, I’ll admit I do unplug everything… The thing is, it is only once or twice a year when I go on vacation. The real savings comes by cranking the AC hotter in the summer or the heat cooler in the winter. Everything else is just pennies!

Reality Check

So yes, I did use a bit of hyperbole to make a point in today’s piece. Even so, you do really need to consider whether or not it is worth unplugging certain items.

You’ll never see me unplugging a clock or cell phone charger to save money. On the other hand, if I have a computer that I use once a year and I usually leave it in sleep mode you bet I’d unplug that and save $20 a year.

Just make sure to consider the real trade off with your time and the convenience factor.

What would you unplug to save money? Is it really worth your time? Let me know which side of the argument you fall on in the comments.

Photo by: 401(k) 2012

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. I don’t do this and that is because I have done a time wasted/cost benefit and it just wasn’t for me. I don’t have cable, so the biggest expense doesn’t affect me. Also, if you turn off the cable box, you have to boot it back up. That takes just as much energy as leaving it on. If you really want to turn off things around your TV, then put them all on one electrical strip and then flip the switch. It will take time for your cable box to come back on, so enjoy the wait!

  2. So the good news is that you aren’t losing out on $100 per year. I did the research and found out I would only save like $20 per year if I went around unplugging everything. I agree with you 100% it isn’t worth your time. Here is the research I did.

  3. I’m on the same page as you – there just isn’t the upside to constant unplug the things I’m not using. I will only do it for things that I use infrequently, like you described with the desktop up above. Since I don’t use it often, there wouldn’t be a point in paying the extra electrical fees for something I don’t use often. Great post!

  4. I absolutely agree with you on this one. I’m not going to spend my time running all around the house unplugging everything. Honestly, I keep thinking this is another ploy by the green movement to have us all live without electricity. This is their first step. One thing I do, is turn off and unplug the computers when we go out of town for vacation but that is to avoid a power surge if we have a storm.

  5. I was thinking about writing an article talking about unplugging things to save money. Based on these numbers, I don’t think I’ll even write the post…if unplugging the devices isn’t worth the time, writing an article telling other people to unplug their devices is a double waste of time.

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