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Family Money

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It's dark at 5 o'clock, my feet are cold and all I want to do is curl up with a hot cup of tea in front of the fireplace. Winter, my friends, has set in and without the option of taking a long winter's nap, we must face the inevitable of shorter daylight hours and rise in utility bills.

Our electric bill is none too happy this time of year and tends to pack on a few extra pounds...err dollars...but here are six quick fixes our family did to keep costs down.

  • Install a programmable thermostat and save about $100 a year by using the pre-programmed temperature settings for the weekend and weekdays. You can stay comfortable while at home and not utilize resources while you are not.
  • Change your lighting. Make the switch to compact fluorescent or LED bulbs. Install motion sensor lights and/or place lights on timers. Remind your family to shut off lights when they leave a room.
  • Check your heating ducts and wrap any leaks with duct mastic. Sealing ducts can increase efficiency and the amount of warm air you receive.
  • Replace old drafty windows. If this isn't an option then use a shrink-wrap material to keep cold air out and warm air inside. Seal gaps in doors with a door draft protector.
  • Buy Energy Star appliances. While the price tag is higher, they can save you money in the long run and with your power company, too. Unplug TVs, computers and other gadgets when not in use. Use smart power strips that shut down a power outlet when it senses gadgets have gone into standby mode.
  • Set your water heater lower to 120 degrees. Tackle chores during off-peak hours – shower, cook or do laundry – after 9pm and before 6am and between 10am and 3 pm and on weekends.

According to, "Heating accounts for 34 percent of all annual utility usage and is part of what makes an average home twice the emitter of carbon dioxide emissions as a vehicle."

Making these small, suggested changes to your daily lifestyle can not only help your family save money this winter but throughout the year.

Nikki Ducas is a budget-savvy Fredericksburg mom teaching her two young sons that you can afford nice things without accumulating debt.

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