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Save Money On Heat To Eliminate Credit Card Debt

Last year, (2009) I was looking over my expenses for 2008. I noticed I spent an awful lot of money on home heating oil to heat my apartment. I spent over $750 for oil! For a 2 bedroom apartment? That’s way too much. These costs can easily add to your credit card debt. I needed to save money on heat! Saving heating oil became a mission!

It’s a drafty, older house, so I set out this past year to save some dough. Replacing the windows was not an option since I don’t own the building. I’ll let the landlord do that later. The benefits of creating savings on energy costs pay me back year after year.

If you're paying off debt, save money with these heat tips.

If you’re paying off debt, save money with these heat tips.

How to Save Money on Heat Right Away

  • First, I noticed the windows rattle when the wind blew hard. With aluminum “combination” windows, that were 10 if not 15 years old, there were lots of cracks and drafts to contend with.  Energy savings was not an exact science when cavemen built these windows.  My solution? – clear plastic packing tape – at about a $1.00 a roll. At 10 minutes per window, I merely covered over the natural spaces in the aluminum frames after being sure they were fully seated and closed, and across the sash. That was step one.
  • Next, I went to the hardware store for that heat sealing plastic wrap I saw on TV. (Generic brand, of course, its all the same stuff) The store clerk told me it worked fine, but I should also get some “rope caulk”, or “caulking cord”. He said otherwise, I would be entertained by watching the shrink wrap billow in and out with the wind. The plastic would seal the cold air out, but would not form a thermal barrier keeping the heat in  This putty-like stuff comes in a ribbon like roll, and is used to stuff gaps and cracks around the window before you seal it in with the plastic shrink wrap. It is also removable, so I would not be sealing my windows permanently.
  • So, I bought the “caulking cord” at the hardware store, and a couple of packages of the bargain shrink wrap at a local dollar store. (I was mortified at the cost of the brand name shrink wrap and knew there had to be a generic equivalent. They only carried the name brand.) Going to the dollar store can help you stay on budget.

Step two became using the caulking cord, and Step three was applying the shrink-wrap.

I put the caulking cord all around the windows, effectively creating double pane windows.  Then I put on the shrink wrap window sealer according to the package. Voila -triple pane windows, sort of!

This wasn’t enough for my frugal self. I embarked on my own personal “energy audit” to find more ways to save money. I thought about how I used my living space. I work at home most of the time, so I need comfortable home heating all day.  Some folks can turn their heat off with a thermostat for hours that they are not home – which I fully recommend. If I was not home all day, I’d invest in a digital thermostat timer.

I work in my office – a room on the north side all day and if I am home at night, I watch a little tv in the living room. I read somewhere about the value of heating just the room you are in versus the whole apartment or house. Duh! Why didn’t I think of that myself! So, two days later I stopped into the hardware store and found a tiny ceramic heater called a “cube”, marked down from $39 to $20.

I used the heater in my office until I was done for the day, then took it to the living room when TV time came around, and then to the bedroom when it’s time for bed. I just knew the savings on energy costs was worth the investment.

I left the thermostat in the apartment on 50 degrees all day, heating only the rooms that I was into a very comfortable 70. A few days it was really cold, and I just worked in a sweatshirt – a small enough sacrifice to save money on oil.

When rising in the morning I would open the curtains on the sunny side of the house. I found that even without the heat on in the living room, just having the curtains open during the morning hours the room was on average 15 degrees warmer! When the sun went down, the curtains were closed.

And finally, I realized that the bathroom vent fan was wired directly to the light switch! So, since heat rises, every time the light went on, all the heat in the bathroom would be sucked out! Well, I don’t always need the fan on when shaving, or brushing my teeth, so I got a cheap solution for those times. I bought a large battery operated LED light, for $2. It’s mounted on the wall next to the light switch. That’s my “night light” since daylight is bright enough during the day in the bathroom. No longer am I heating the backyard in the winter. I’ll figure out how to rewire it to two switches later – I’m terrified of electricity.

Total savings for the year?  Let’s see, Year one – $779.60 for oil, Year two – $122.45!.  My electric bill went up only $30 per month for the 4 coldest months. The cost of the heater, shrink wrap, tape, caulking cord and LED light was less than  $60. So, I spent approximately $180 to save over $650 in heating costs! A net savings of over $470!

That doesn’t even figure in the use of the heater for a few years. And I still have plenty of tape and caulking cord left.

I won’t be unsealing the windows on the sunny side of the house, to keep it cooler this summer -saving on air conditioning. The air conditioner and window fans always go in on the shady side of the house anyway.

The point of the story here is that everyone’s lifestyle is different, but there is always a way to conserve without deprivation. You can save money just by examining how it is being spent. It’s the small things that add up! Saving $470 on heat for the winter? That’s cool! Always look for ways to save money at home. There might be more places than you see to find grand savings.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 


Andi is a Marketing Assistant at ACCC. He is passionate about supporting financial literacy efforts and helping to educate people on the Talking Cents blog!

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