Living on a budget sucks. There’s no way around it. You can try to convince yourself that it’s a fun math game all you want (nerd alert), but I’m here to tell you that it pretty much, yeah, sucks.
Mikey and I enjoyed a lovely reprieve from our main financial drain–our mortgage payment–for the three glorious months leading up to Christmas, as a result of a lengthy and aggravating refinancing process that ultimately has saved us a nice little chunk of change every year. You would think that two moderately bright young adults (we were both valedictorians, fercryinoutloud) would have used this breathing room in our monthly bills to do some saving and pay down debt but, um, we didn’t. Nope. Instead, we bought a new fridge (score!), did a cheapo remodel in our laundry room (double score!), replaced snow tires (boring! but safe!), and spent the requisite crippling sum of Christmas money (ho! ho! ho!).
But now our three months are up, so we are back to a more realistic budget that includes our mortgage payment. We sat down to look at the nitty-gritty details of our incoming and outgoing funds, and were not surprised (but still bummed) to see that we have some work to do if we’re going to have any disposable income for fun stuff like family vacations and swimming lessons and dance classes. I thought I’d share some of our money-saving tips with all of you, since you may also be in the holiday-hangover phase of coming back to reality after those tempting after-Christmas sales. I’m planning on revisiting this topic a couple of times this week, and I’ll try to categorize each post. This week’s will focus on the constant battle of Northeast home ownership: the dreaded heating bill.
* Seems like a no-brainer, but regulate your thermostat. Purchase a digital thermostat that you can program, or just be diligent about turning back the dial regularly. We have found that dropping the temperature overnight and when we are at work is a pretty painless way to cut back on our heating cost and not feel uncomfortably cool in our own home. It has taken some reminding, but I’m now in the habit of turning the heat down pretty much every time I leave the house for more than an hour–we return from story hour to a chillier house, but it’s never frigid.
* Take some steps to weatherize. Putting the money into bigger projects to button up your home (like a new roof, extra insulation, foundation repair, etc.) is definitely worth it in the long run, but there are other fixes that can supplement those massive projects. We don’t have any direct heating sources upstairs, so we are using this weekend to do the plastic-wrap-your-windows thing, which is a simple way to keep drafts from coming in and heat from escaping in areas of the house where you struggle to monitor the temperature. Our kitchen door is also super drafty, so we’ll be picking up a little draft-blocker to place at the bottom of the door. Window inserts (some that you can make yourself), caulk for drafty doors and windows, sealant for outlets, and a tightly closed flue damper are other ways to keep heat in and cool air out.
* Either make your own fuel budget, or check out the budget plans that your energy provider offers. We have opted not to do the price-cap option that our carrier offers, and so far it’s been worth it (the buy-in cost would outweigh the potential savings); another year, though, and the price of fuel might be too uncertain to gamble on, and it will probably make sense for us to go for the price protection plan. In the meantime, we set aside money year-round that’s designated for our fuel tank.
Those are my (kind of obvious, I know) tips for saving money on heating costs. What things do you do to keep your home heated on a budget?