8 Refrigerator Mistakes That Can Cost You Money

by Andrea Norris-McKnight, AI Editor

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You’ve probably had a fridge in your home your entire life, but that doesn’t mean you know how to use it efficiently. See if you’re making any of these fridge faux pas.

A refrigerator is a household staple, and while it’s crucial for keeping certain foods fresh, mistakes in its usage can cost you money. From excessive energy usage to food spoilage, it’s essential to understand where you might be going wrong.

Here are some common refrigerator mistakes that can have a financial impact and simple solutions for getting refrigerator costs under control.

1. You don’t keep your fridge organized.

An unorganized fridge is not just an eyesore; it can also cost you money. When your fridge is cluttered, it’s hard to see what you have, leading to duplicate purchases and wasted food.


  • Use clear containers for leftovers so it’s easier to see what you need to eat up.
  • Create designated spots for different types of food, such as condiments and produce, so you can keep better track of what you have on hand.
  • Determine the best places to store the different types of foods in your fridge, like keeping your milk on a shelf where it’s coolest rather than a door that is continually exposed to the outside air each time someone opens the fridge.

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2. You don’t keep track of what’s in your fridge.

Losing track of what’s in your fridge can lead to unnecessary purchases and food waste. This mistake may seem small but can add up over time.


  • Make an inventory of what’s in your fridge and update it regularly.
  • Use a first-in, first-out system to ensure you use older products before new ones.

3. You don’t clean out your fridge regularly.

A dirty fridge isn’t just a health hazard; it can also lead to financial waste. Not only is throwing away expired food much the same as throwing away money, but it can be hard to determine what you need to buy when you don’t know what’s gone bad.


  • Make it a habit to clean out your fridge every week.
  • Dispose of expired or spoiled food and keep track of foods you commonly throw out so you can stop buying them, find a better way to store them or work them into meal plans more often to use them up before they go bad.
  • Wipe down the shelves during your weekly clean-out to keep them clean and odor-free.

4. You neglect regular fridge maintenance.

Failing to maintain your fridge can lead to decreased efficiency and higher energy bills. Furthermore, neglect can lead to the need for costly repairs or even replacement before the end of the appliance’s natural life span.


  • Regularly check the door seals to ensure they are airtight and clean.
  • Clean the condenser coils every few months.

5. Your fridge isn’t set to the optimal temperature.

Contrary to popular belief, setting your refrigerator to the coldest setting doesn’t make it more efficient. It will consume more energy and may freeze your food, leading to waste. You also want to ensure it’s cool enough to keep your food at a safe temperature.


  • Keep your fridge temperature at or below 40°F (4°C) and your freezer at 0°F (-18°C).
  • Use a thermometer to check the temperature regularly.
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6. You have a lot of empty space in your fridge.

Believe it or not, a nearly empty fridge consumes more energy than one that’s moderately filled. The food acts as a thermal mass, helping to keep the refrigerator cool when you open the door.


  • If your fridge is often empty, consider downsizing to a smaller model.
  • Keep jugs of water in empty spaces to act as thermal mass.

7. Your fridge is too full.

While avoiding too much empty space in your fridge is essential, overcrowding is also a problem. A packed fridge can restrict airflow, making the appliance work harder and consume more energy.


  • Ensure there’s enough room for air to circulate freely around all items.
  • Avoid storing large items that can obstruct vents.
  • Use stackable storage containers to maximize space efficiently.

8. You have a very old refrigerator.

Older refrigerator models are often less energy-efficient than their modern counterparts. In the long run, the money you save by not upgrading, you’ll typically have to put toward higher electricity bills.


  • If your fridge is over 10 to 12 years old, determine if replacing it with an Energy Star-rated model can save you money.
  • Look out for sales, rebates, or tax credits for energy-efficient appliances.

By avoiding these common refrigerator mistakes, you can maximize your fridge’s efficiency, extend its lifespan, and save money in the short and long term. Decide which steps you need to take to cut refrigerator costs.

Reviewed January 2024

Editor's note: Some of our articles, such as this one, are researched using automated technology and then edited and verified for accuracy, allowing us to continue providing free content.

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