I don’t know how the weather is where you live, but here in the DC area, we’re dealing with a lot of record cold. Oh sure, it’s not that cold when compared to other parts of the country, but for us, it’s been pretty darn chilly. The past month was especially cold, and I knew it was going to have an effect on my gas bill, but I just wasn’t sure how bad it was going to be.
Well, the bill came last week, and I think I gasped out loud when I opened the email. It’s definitely the highest gas bill that I’ve seen in the four years that I have lived here. Probably at least $70 more than the previous most expensive bill. That’s never fun.
I’m not upset about the amount or kicking myself for not coming up with better savings ideas, but here are a few things that I’ve done or am planning to do to lower my heating costs.
First off, I do want to mention budget billing. Some energy companies offer budget billing, where you pay a set amount for 12 months regardless of how much gas or electricity you use. This is awesome – you know what your bill is going to be every month. At least until that 12th month, you are either credited back the money if you used less energy than anticipated or you pay the extra money you owe because you used more than anticipated. That’s all well and good, but I personally like seeing results immediately. I just got a higher bill, so I’m thinking about ways I can save now, rather than continuing to heat my house as normal.
One of the big bummers to the heating bill is that I was out of town for ten days last month, so that’s heat I wasn’t actively using. However, just because you aren’t home doesn’t mean your home shouldn’t be heated. First off, I have cats, so I’m not going to leave them to freeze. But I also needed to make sure that my pipes didn’t freeze. I was lucky and didn’t have any trouble, but I have two coworkers who had burst pipes due to the cold. That can cause serious damage to a home.
I have a programmable thermostat in my home. I have it set so that the temperature drops at night and then rises just before my alarm goes off. It’s awesome to not have to think about setting the thermostat, and I don’t even think about it until I have to get up an hour or so earlier than normal and discover that my bedroom is so very cold. In general, I keep my house pretty cool in the winter. If your house is comfortable enough for you to be walking around in shorts and a t-shirt, you’re probably using more heat than you need to. But I can take a second look at the temperature settings and see if I can’t drop it a few degrees. There are all sorts of claims out there about how much money you can save by dropping your thermostat by just one degree. I’m not sure how accurate they are, but clearly, using less energy to heat your home is going to save you money.
One thing I know I need to do is have new windows put in. I’m pretty sure none of the windows are original to the house (which was built in the 40’s), but I know that some were installed in the 80’s. It’s clear when I walk next to them that there is cold coming in. Not via a draft, but just through poor insulation. One option is to put up temporary insulation film, something that I’ve considered, but never done. It would be interesting to see how much it would help. But I’m also just slowly saving money so I can replace the windows. It’s going to be a big expense, but very worth it.
I also have one door that needs its weatherstripping replaced. I currently have a draft stopper (a tube of fabric filled with cat litter) sitting in front of it, but I need to take the time to replace the weather stripping. It’s not particularly difficult, just something I need to take the time to do.
So those are my current plans to save a bit more money on my gas bill. And many of them will save on summer cooling as well. Any other ideas to share?
Megan is a 30-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.