When I was a kid, I could never understand why it always had to be so cold in the house.  It was a constant tug-of-war as to what the temperature would be set to.  My parents were on one team, battling my brother and me on the other.

Either my brother or I would turn the thermostat up to 70 or 72.  Within an hour, my mom would notice that the house had warmed up considerably and turn it back down to 68 or lower. 

If it were 68 degrees outside, my mom would make me put on a light jacket.  Why on earth would she have it be 68 degrees inside the house where it was supposed to be comfy and warm?  Wait.......did she actually expect me to put on a sweatshirt while inside

Now that I'm the grown-up, and have to pay the utility bill each month, I find my finger pushing the "down" button on the thermostat more frequently than I would have ever imagined. 

I knew it was time to turn the furnace on for the first time this year when I looked at the thermostat during the afternoon a few weeks ago, and found that the temperature in the house had dropped to 62 degrees.  As I clicked the thermostat to the "heat" position and pushed the "up" arrow, I also knew it was time to review those tips on how to keep energy costs down during the upcoming months.

Seal your house:  No house is air tight.  Purchase plastic window wrap and seal up those windows - especially if you live in an older home. The up-front cost will more than pay for itself over the next 7 months.  Check your doors, as well.  If you can feel a draft coming in, there are products to help you with that too.

Change your furnace filter:  A lot of people forget about this one.  If your filter is clogged with all kinds of dust, your furnace has to work harder to push the warm air throughout your house.

Turn your thermostat down when nobody is home:  Why heat your house when nobody is around?  Turn it down before you leave, turn it up when you get home, and turn it down when you go to bed.  This is a review, as I'm sure we've all heard this before.  I turn my thermostat down to at least 66 when everyone is sleeping.  If you have a hard time remembering to do this,   programmable thermostats are not that expensive and not too difficult to install.  I found some at a local big box hardware store for under $30.  If you're leaving for a weekend or longer, turn the temp way down - 10 degrees or more.

Turn the temperature down.  Permanently:  It's estimated that you save about 3% of your energy costs for each degree you permanently lower your thermostat below 72 degrees.  It may be hard to swallow a 3 to 4 degree drop at once, so do it gradually? Turn it down one degree per week until you reach your target temperature. 

Snuggle with blankets:  So your house isn't going to be mistaken for the tropics. Give yourself and your kids a little something for the sacrifice.  Take a shopping trip and have everyone choose their own fuzzy, furry, comfy blanket.  Snuggle up together with those blankets during the evening while you're watching TV.  In our house, we call them "family snuggles."  Imagine, saving energy AND promoting family togetherness!

By remembering these easy tips, you can help take the wintry bite out of your energy costs.  Do you have any other tips for reducing your energy bills this winter?  If so, add them as comments to this blog. Let's help each other and see how many tips we can come up with!

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Travis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey Out of Debt blog and is a very active member of the community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan and in his posts he shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family. Compensated CareOne Blogger.

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