Does your spending go up as the temperature goes down? Between holiday parties, family gift-giving and energy costs, the winter months can sometimes cause you to spend more than you like. We asked financial and energy experts how they recommend saving money during the winter. Read on to get their best tips and tricks.
1. Get an Energy Audit
Faulty heating systems, cracks between doors, and dirty air filters could have you spending more to heat your home in the winter. David Bakke, of National Air Warehouse, suggests getting an energy audit from your energy provider.
“Typically, they'll come to your home or apartment and perform a quick inspection and provide you with a list of ways to save,” explains Bakke. Go through the list from your energy provider to upgrade the efficiency of your home.
2. Maintain Your Heating System
A heating system that’s not working correctly could cost you a lot of money through the winter. Inspect your HVAC system regularly for signs of damage, such as mold near your HVAC unit or loud noises when the system runs. Repair issues as soon as possible for a more efficient system.
You also need to practice good HVAC maintenance habits, including replacing dirty air filters. As Owen Drury, a lifestyle editor, explains, “Dirty or clogged filters force your HS to work harder for proper airflow, using extra energy and raising bills.”
3. Install a Programmable Thermostat
Automating your heating is an easy way to lower your overall energy costs. You can choose a simple programmable thermostat or a smart thermostat. Programmable thermostats are relatively inexpensive and allow you to set when your heat turns on and off. According to Bakke, “They normally cost less than $100, but they can go a long way in reducing costs during the winter months if you use them to your advantage.”
Smart thermostats are generally more expensive than a basic programmable thermostat. The benefit is the ability to monitor and adjust your home’s temperature from almost anywhere. A smart thermostat connects to your phone or other mobile devices.
Rob Shaw, a ProTip home improvement specialist with over a decade of experience in residential construction, recommends smart thermostats. As Shaw explains, “You’re able to control it from your phone which allows you to turn the heat down if you forget after leaving the house, which is great.”
4. Bundle Up and Lower the Heat
Turning the thermostat down a few degrees could lead to big savings throughout the winter. Swap lighter clothing for heavier pieces to make up for the lower inside temperatures.
Praful Kharade of Improving Remedies explains, “Perhaps the best way to keep your utility bills down this winter is to be conscious of the temperature at which your thermostat is set. This doesn't mean you have to walk around the house wearing a winter coat, gloves, and your thickest socks — but a sweatshirt or scarf may be manageable in return for future cost savings.”
Keeping the heat lower could also save you money on health expenses. Heating systems often leave the air in your home dry. This can lead to dry sinuses and potential health issues that require a visit to the doctor or over the counter medications.
“You'll potentially save by giving your sinus' a break. Dry sinus cavities cause headaches, make you more susceptible to colds and viruses and the added heat is only going to cost you more money,” says Michele Paiva, a licensed psychotherapist focusing on finance therapy.
Kharade agrees, mentioning the importance of maintaining your physical fitness to help reduce your chances of getting sick.
5. Make Your Home Airtight
Cracks and broken seals around windows and doors easily let warm air out and cold air into your home. Sealing off any places where air can escape your home should help you lower your energy costs and save money this winter.
“One tip for saving big during the winter is to have your windows checked to make sure they are insulated and installed without wall gaps that would let hot air out and inflate your heating bill,” says Stacy Caprio of Deals Scoop.
Caprio also suggests using curtains to cut off the cold from large windows, “You can also put up thick curtains on large windowed areas to help keep heat in the home and decrease your heating bill.” Try closing your curtains after the sun goes down to seal in the warmth from the day.
Shaw agrees and suggests investing in an inexpensive temperature gun to search your home for areas that are losing heat. “Oftentimes, windows and doors are the greatest culprits of costly drafts that keep your HVAC system working extra because of the loss through these areas.”
You should try to take care of sealing leaks right away. Drury encourages homeowners and renters, “This is the easiest thing to do, check cracks and gaps, and prevent cold air from coming inside by sealing them right away. Don't neglect these small openings — all big problems started from being little.”
6. Reverse Your Fans
A quick — and often overlooked — tip to maximize efficiency and lower energy costs is to reverse the direction of your ceiling fans. Most ceiling fans have a small switch that reverses the direction of the blades to spin clockwise to counterclockwise.
“In the summer you want to push the cool air down to keep you cool. In the winter, you want to push the air up to displace the warm air that collects at the ceiling,” explains Lindsey LeRoy from All-Collective, a consulting firm that works with home improvement, hotel, and dining companies.
7. Unplug When Not in Use
Did you know most electronics use power, even when they’re turned off? When plugged in, electronics — including TVs, coffee makers, and video game consoles — draw power from the outlet. Called standby power, this power flow makes devices turn on faster. The downside is the wasted power that’s costing you money. You can unplug your electronics when not in use or install a surge protector.
LeRoy explains, “Surge protectors are nice because you can flip the master switch off when you're not using it, so you're not wasting money on standby power.”
8. Heat with Sunlight
You might not want to open your windows when it’s cold outside, but opening your blinds could help heat your home.
Drury encourages homeowners and renters to use the sun to their advantage, “Even if it's snowing or freezing outside, the sun still shines and radiates heat. Give your heater a little break during the day and open your curtains to let the natural light heat your home.”
Try to find where the sun is strongest in your home throughout the day. You can leave curtains closed in areas with little to no sunshine. Bakke explains, “It will take a bit of investigation, but you should be able to find the best points to close or open curtains to decrease winter energy costs.”
9. Decorate Efficiently
Many people look forward to celebrating the winter holidays with festive lights and displays. All this extra power, however, could be costing you. If you want to decorate, be sure to use energy-efficient lighting.
Drury suggests investing in LED lighting — which might cost more upfront but should save you money in energy costs in the long run.
10. Reduce Holiday Spending
It’s popular to give gifts over the winter holiday season. To save money on holiday spending, communicate with friends and family early and try one of these money-saving ideas from Galit Tsadik, a CFO with experience in personal finance and psychology:
- Set family spending limits on gifts
- Limit the number of gifts given, or only purchase one gift per person.
- Consider a secret gift exchange where everyone draws a name from a hat and gets a gift for the person they draw.
Murphy explains that limiting the number or cost of gifts helps save money in the future as well. By using this system, you’ll have a better idea of how much you need to budget for gift-giving each year.
You might consider eliminating gift exchanges. Paiva recommends talking with friends and family and switching to sending thoughtful greeting cards instead of gifts.
11. Review Your Expenses
With the end of the year, winter is a great time to review your expenses and look for areas where you could reduce costs. For example, you might be eligible for car insurance discounts you didn’t know about before. Be sure to update your budget as you cut your expenses, so you know how much money you’re saving each month.