It's a vicious cycle: our paychecks come in, and the bills go out. For most of us, we've spent a good chunk of our paychecks on those bills before we've even cashed our checks. And while we can't wave a magic wand and make those pesky bills disappear, we can at least try to make them a little less substantial. And the electric bill is a good place to start.

We're all guilty of leaving the lights on when we're not home from time to time, but there are ways you're wasting money without even knowing it -- and the refrigerator is where that's happening. The refrigerator is the second offender (after the air conditioning of course) in racking up your energy costs. So you may want to start paying attention in how you treat it. With a little maintenance, and proper use, you'll be saving money in no time.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Check The Seal

    One of the first parts of the fridge to go are the door seals. Overtime, the rubber becomes dry and cracked, allowing the cold air to escape. One good way to check the efficacy of your seals is to <a href="http://www.care2.com/greenliving/refrigerators-cooling-down-your-electric-bill.html" target="_hplink">use the paper test</a>. Close the door on a piece of paper that's half in and half out of the fridge. If you can easily slip the paper out, the seals probably need to be replaced.

  • Clean It Out

    If your fridge is jam-packed, to the point where items are stacked on top of each other, it's harder to keep things cool. With too many items on the shelves, the refrigerator air has a harder time circulating, which cuts down on its efficiency.

  • Don't Leave It Empty

    An <a href="http://www.doityourself.com/stry/refrigeratorenergy#b" target="_hplink">empty fridge will cost you more</a> money than a full one. (Though, we're not talking about one that's jam-packed, just one that has items in it.) The reason for this is because cold items contribute to the cool temperature of the fridge. If your fridge is close to empty, you may want to make a trip to the store.

  • Clean The Coils

    While it might feel like just another silly cleaning chore to add on your long, long list of home upkeep, it's well worth the few minutes it takes to clean the refrigerator coils. A lot of dust clings to the coils (found either behind or underneath the fridge) which can hinder <a href="http://www.doityourself.com/stry/refrigeratorenergy#b" target="_hplink">this appliance's ability to run efficiently.</a> Vacuum the coils once a month to avoid any need for repair.

  • Keep Air Vents Clear

    Keeping the air vents clear is an easy one to remedy. Just keep the items in your fridge from blocking the air vents -- it's how the cold air gets inside. <a href="http://www.doityourself.com/stry/refrigeratorenergy#b" target="_hplink">Plastic bags or cellophane wrapping</a> can sometimes block them.

  • Keep It Cool

    Refrigerators are just like us, they get hot when they sit in the sun. If possible, try to position your fridge in the coolest part of your kitchen. Keeping it in a shady spot will keep it and its contents cooler.

  • Check The Temperature

    The <a href="http://www.care2.com/greenliving/refrigerators-cooling-down-your-electric-bill.html" target="_hplink">optimal temperature for your refrigerator</a> is between 37-40 degrees F -- the freezer should be set at 3 degrees F. Anything colder than that is just a waste of money (and anything warmer might not keep things fresh).

  • Know What You Want Before You Open The Door

    We're all guilty of doing it, standing in front of the opened fridge wondering what we feel like eating. It's time to put a stop to this. Doing this is the same as throwing your money in the trash.

  • WATCH: How To Organize A Refrigerator