Cold cash, warm spirits

I’m a sunshine-loving California girl. So it should come as no surprise that this winter thing is a little hard for me to stomach. It’s freezing cold in the mountains where I live and though we haven’t had snow yet this year, the ski resorts are praying it will come soon. I, however, am not. If I could crawl in bed and hibernate for a few months, I would.

Christmas is good motivation to make it through December, but once January hits, I’m dreaming of Hawaii. And in years past, our house has fittingly felt like paradise. I like to compare myself to a tropical fish—I do best at temps approaching 80 degrees. So I’d crank the thermostat well into the 70s. Friends would visit and it wouldn’t be long until they were stripped down to their T-shirts. Forget Christmas in July; this was July during Christmas.

Comfort came at a price, though: an astronomical heating bill, to be exact. Up until now, I didn’t mind too much. It was an extravagance, but it was important to me. This year, my significant other finally convinced me it might be time to embrace the cold and save our budget. Instead of setting the thermostat at 72 degrees (or higher if I was really cold), we’re keeping it at about 65 during the day. At night, we turn it down to 60 (he’d like to keep it at 55—or off—but I’m not ready yet). When we’re gone all day, we turn it off. We’ve been keeping up our chilly little experiment since October and so far our bills have been on average $50 lower.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up (my teeth are chattering as I write this), but I’ve been taking a look at last month’s billing statement every time I waver. It helps. So do the layers upon layers of blankets and the down comforter on the bed.

If you’re not as thin-skinned as I am, you might already be setting your thermostat pretty low. But you can still save some dough by kicking it down a little or turning it off when possible. Start with just one or two degrees, and if you can live with that, keep going until you reach your lowest comfort level. Of course, if you live up north or anywhere temperatures can drop dangerously low at night you should keep the thermostat on for safety while you sleep, preferably at 55 degrees or more (if you can’t afford to heat the house, period, please bundle up so you don’t freeze!) You also don’t want to turn it off if you think the pipes in your house might freeze.

Benefits go beyond the heating bill. Because your house will be cooler, the refrigerator and freezer won’t have to work as hard, so you’ll use less energy. If you keep a real Christmas tree in your home this season, it won’t dry out as fast. You might even burn more calories staying a bit colder (OK, maybe this is just wishful thinking spurred by all the Christmas cookies I’ve eaten lately).

For even more ways to save, check out our updated Give Yourself a Raise flyer, one of the “tools” in our new Debt Relief Toolkit. Need more immediate help due to overextended credit cards or too many missed mortgage payments? Give us a ring or click here at DebtStoppers for a free personalized debt analysis. Knowing you’re on your way to financial freedom will help warm your spirits, even when it’s cold outside.

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