Winter Saving Tips

woman by fireplace wrapped in blanket

If you’re in one of the regions experiencing the bone-chilling polar air, it’s a safe bet you’re also dealing with higher expenses for utilities, clothing, and transportation. According to the Department of Energy, about 45% of your energy bill comes from heating your space in the cold winter months. Fortunately, we’ve found some ways to help you cut down on your energy bills and save on expenses until things warm up again.

Winterize your house

Ensure your house is as air-tight as possible by looking for air leaks and plugging them. Sealing cracks around doors and window frames can help you retain 25% more of your home’s heat. Pay close attention to areas around doors and windows, and look for spots where you can see light come in from outside or feel a breeze. Although the space between a door and it’s frame may not seem like a big deal, keep in mind that a 1/8-inch gap around a door is the same as a 6-inch square hole in the side of your house. Make the same checks on any place a pipe or wire enters or exits your living spaces, including wall outlets and switch plates.

An easy way to stop drafts under doors is to place a rolled-up towel along the bottom of the door or—if you are crafty—make a DIY draft snake. If you have single-pane windows, place plastic over them to add some insulation. You can get window kits at a hardware store, and they are pretty easy to install and don’t look too unsightly. If you don’t like the idea of plastic, cover the windows with insulated curtains and close them at night to hold heat in.

Major renovations such as installing new windows, a new furnace, roof and the like may be necessary but expensive. These can easily be financed using your home’s equity  or by checking with the merchant you’re using to see if they offer some sort of financing program.

Lower your thermostat
How often are you away from home? Do you remember to turn the thermostat down each time you leave the house? If you often catch yourself forgetting to to turn it down, you may want to invest in a programmable thermostat. They allow you to put your heating and cooling system on a schedule, which can save an average family as much as 5%-15% per year on their heating bill.

For example, you can program the thermostat to be lower at night while you are sleeping but kick on before you get up so the house is still comfortable when you awake. Since you’ll be snuggled up under warm blankets at night, consider lowering your heat by 10 degrees at night. Similarly, while you’re warm in the office during the day, you can program the thermostat to have the heat lower while you’re gone, but have it come on before you get home so the house is nice and toasty when you get there.

Give your water heater a blanket
Water heaters older than 5 years are not as well insulated as the newer ones, so they need insulation specially cut to fit a water heater tank. You can get a water heater blanket from your local hardware store, and they’ll save you about 5-9% on your heating bill. You can also protect the pipes around the water heater with inexpensive pipe insulation. Before you head to the hardware store, check with your local utility company to see if they offer any of these products at a discount. For added savings, reduce the temperature setting of your water heater to 125 degrees Farenheit.

Reverse your ceiling fans
Ceiling fans aren’t just for summer. Check your fan and see if it has a switch to change the blade direction. For this easy, but under-utilized trick to work, run the fan clockwise at low speed. This pushes the warm air near the ceiling down to mix with the cold air, which makes a room warmer. This allows you to lower your thermostat and maximize the heat that does get put out by your heating system.

Save on snow removal
If you live in a community with a homeowner’s association, your snow removal may already be covered. If it’s not, using the homeowner’s association to contract snow removal for the entire community will decrease your costs significantly when it’s split among all the homeowners in your community. If you don’t have a homeowner’s association, talk to your neighbors about going together to hire a snow removal firm. Alternatively, you can suggest purchasing a communal snow blower that everyone can use.

Clothes for the kids
Buying winter clothes for kids is a pain especially since you know they’ll have outgrown them after one season. Follow these tips to spare your pocketbook and make sure your kids’ clothes last longer:
• Look at last year’s clothes with an eye for what can be repurposed. For example, you can purchase longer leggings and roll them up, so next year you can simply roll them down. Once they get to be too short, consider pairing them with taller boots or getting your kids to wear leggings, tights or similar for extra warmth.
• Look at consignment shops and thrift stores. Kids often outgrow winter clothes before they start showing wear, and you may find boots and coats for much less than the regular price at a retail store.
• If you have both boys and girls, buy clothes in unisex colors so they can be handed down or traded. You can set up a clothes swap with neighbors, extended family, or church friends to expand your clothes swapping network.

Winterize your car yourself

You don’t have to pay the mechanic to get your wheels ready for winter. Try the tips below to prep your car for the polar air and save on minor car maintenance expenses:
• Change your wiper blades (they should be changed every six months)
• Inspect your tires and replace any that show bald spots or shallow treads
• Check fluid levels and top off washer fluid and antifreeze (be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions as antifreezes differ)
• Wax the car to help protect it from road salt

Winter doesn’t have to be the most expensive season. There are a lot of ways you can save money by pooling resources with friends and neighbors and learning to do some things yourself, including plugging up all those pesky air leaks. Who knows? By following these tips you just might save enough money to pay for a summer getaway!

Guest Blogger: Damaris Olaechea, NerdWallet

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