How to save money on electricity and gifts this winter

Winter is just around the corner. And we all know what that means.

Higher energy bills are right around the corner. Combine that with extra spending around the holidays and you have a recipe for a serious hit to your bank account.

Fortunately, there are ways to save money on both heating costs and holiday spending.

Today I want to discuss actions we can take to reduce energy bills without shivering in our homes and to reduce holiday spending without losing any of the season’s magic.

Let’s start with energy savings and then follow with holiday savings.

14 ways to save on energy costs

Start with an energy audit. A professional can tell you exactly where heat is escaping from your home. Focusing on those areas will show immediate dividends.

Seal any air leaks that are discovered. Use caulk or weather stripping to seal leaks around windows and doors.

Clean your furnace at least once a year – either professionally or yourself – and change furnace filters every month or two. Less expensive filters may be better than expensive ones because they allow for better airflow.    

Make sure your insulation has not fallen out of key areas, including your attic and basement. 

Set your thermostat as low as you can while still being comfortable. This number will vary by individual, but temps can definitely be lower when we’re gone for several hours. Once you decide what works for you, use a programmable thermostat to control it.

Keep your curtains and blinds open when it’s sunny to gain free heat from the sun. Close them when the sun goes down. Plastic window treatments can reduce heat loss through your windows.

If there are rooms you seldom or never use in the winter, close off the floor and wall vents in those rooms and keep the doors closed.

Keep furniture and other items away from floor and wall vents to avoid blocking the heat. Clean those vents, as well as radiators, to keep dust from circulating.

Use ceiling fans to disperse warm air. A clockwise spin will trap heat to keep rooms warmer in the winter.

To add moisture to a room, which retains heat more effectively, use a humidifier. Moist air is also better for your skin.

If you have a fireplace, the damper should be closed when a fire is not burning. Otherwise, heated air will escape through the chimney.

Seal heating ducts that have small leaks. Metallic tape is better for this than duct tape. A liquid or aerosol-based sealant can also be effective.

Wear layers when you’re at home. Socks, sweaters, and slippers or shoes will keep you from turning the thermostat up. Throw rugs will help insulate your hard floors. Replace your cotton bed sheets with flannel sheets. 

Cook with your oven. Don’t use your oven specifically for heat, but winter is a good time to bake and broil because the oven will heat up your home somewhat. 

7 ways to save on holiday spending

Plan in advance. Don’t wait until December to plan your budget and who you are going to buy for. The holidays can be stressful enough without waiting until the last minute to start planning.

Determine your holiday budget. Be realistic about this. Most people spend more than they can afford this time of year. Setting a budget and sticking with it will help you avoid that.

Put together a list of people you want to buy gifts for and how much you want to spend on each person. Then – and this is the hardest part – stick with it.

Don’t be fooled by sales signs. Pretty much everything is “on sale” during the holidays. Make sure you’re really saving money with each purchase.

Select your payment method. Withdrawing cash for your holiday gifts usually works best. There’s a greater temptation to spend more when you’re using a debit or credit card.

Consider alternatives to store-bought gifts. The gift of time is sometimes appreciated more than a monetary gift. Devote an afternoon to helping a neighbor or friend with something important to them. Or make some gifts at home.

Use the holiday decorations you already have. Yeah, some of them might be getting pretty old and worn, but they have meaning to your family and probably don’t need to be replaced with costly new ones. 

Winter can do a number on our finances, thanks to higher electricity costs and gift spending. But we have the ability to limit the damage through wise decisions.

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