Jerevie Canlas, Ph.D., CFLE
Empowering Financial Wellness Program Coordinator
Just a little tidbit about me. I was born and raised in a tropical country - we don’t get snow. The coldest temperature ever recorded in the Philippines was 42 degrees Fahrenheit, that was in 1961. Before I moved to America, the closest experience I had to winter was taking a really cold bath. Needless to say, I had no idea how to keep myself warm in a frozen desert. 10 winters and many warmers later, here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way.
Get to know your home and it’s needs. Getting to know your home and preparing it for the cold winter months can save you grief and money. Learn a thing or two about basic home maintenance. My first winter as a homeowner, our furnace stopped working on a cold Saturday morning. We got a technician to take a look at it and paid him $120 for the weekend trouble. The culprit - super dirty air filters. Had I changed them every 3 months, I could’ve used the $120 to buy enough air filters to last me 3 years. Also, according to the Department of Energy, having clean air filters can save you upto 7.5% of your monthly utility bill and lengthen the life of your HVAC system. You don’t have to be a very handy person to learn how to maintain your home, but learning some basic skills saved me $60 recently when I reset our water heater’s pilot light myself. Learn to winterize your home and avoid the unnecessary cost of broken furnaces and burst frozen pipes.
Allocate money for home repairs. Include a category dedicated to home repairs in your spending plan, and automatically put that amount away every paycheck. That way, when you suddenly find yourself in cold water, you have the funds to make that water hot again! You might also want to consider getting a home warranty to cover breakdowns of your home’s systems and appliances. A home warranty works similar to your health insurance - you pay a minimal monthly premium and a service fee, and any covered system and appliance in your home can be repaired or replaced at no additional cost. Replacing a furnace can cost you upwards of $3000 depending on brand and size - but the cost to you is significantly lower if you had a home warranty that covers this system. The cost and coverage of home warranties vary across providers, so make sure to shop around to get the best deal for your family.
Use energy wisely. If your home’s heating system is working properly, the next thing you can do is make small changes in your daily utility usage. During my first winter in Utah, I would crank my apartment’s thermostat until I forgot it was winter. The end result: a high utility bill. Over the years, and many blankets later, my winters have gotten warmer wihtout busting my utility allowance. Consider turning your thermostat down by 10 degrees when no one is at home and when you go to bed - this will save you as much as 10% on your annual utility. In my home, the thermostat doesn’t go higher than 68 degrees unless everyone is still cold despite wearing socks and sweaters. Other ways you can lower your utility expenses in the winter are using curtains that you can open during the day to allow the sun to warm your space and shut during the night to slow down the escape of heat, turning down your water heater to at least 115 degrees, closing doors to unused rooms, insulating your doors and windows, and consider investing in a programmable thermostat that automatically adjust the temperature at specified times.
What are other ways you’ve saved slashed household expenses during the winter months? Send them our way (come join the fun on Instagram and Facebook! @utahmoneymoms) and let’s keep each other warm and toasty without burning cash!
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