Guest post from Ruth:
I live in Michigan and heating is our biggest utility expense… particularly because we live in the country and use propane. Our stove, furnace, and hot water heater all run off of propane, and as you can imagine, refilling our 500 gallon tank is pricey!
Our propane bill has been very stressful for us over the years –our propane provider has a minimum fill requirement of 250 gallons, the prices weren’t always good, so we tried to wait as long as we possibly could to fill our tank, and we still ended up spending serious money for each fill.
Now, thanks to some modifications, we not only save money on propane, but we don’t stress over paying the large bill.
Here’s some of the modifications that we made:
1. We now have a written budget every month.
We have two savings accounts, one is designated as our Emergency Fund and one is our Irregular Expense Fund. Each month, a designated contribution is put into our Irregular Expense Fund. By looking at propane usage from prior years, we are able to make an educated guess on an appropriate monthly amount to save.
Now when we need to fill up the propane tank, we just do it and don’t need to worry about how to pay for it. We transfer the money from our Irregular Savings Fund to our checking account and use our debit card for the fill.
2. We switched propane companies.
Not all propane companies are equal… and after one particularly cold winter, we chose a new company that better met our needs.
Our new company offers a price protection plan called a “Price Cap” program. We pay $50 to be enrolled for this program, and we then have a written guarantee that our price will not exceed a certain point. If the actual price per gallon is below our capped price, we pay the actual price.
Our capped price is a little over $1.50 per gallon this season, but I just filled up and paid only $1.40 per gallon.
Their price protection secret was that they bought large amounts of propane inexpensively during the off season and stored it for later use in off site storage.
We’ve found that picking a company with simple common sense ways of controlling the price saves our money and lowers our stress level greatly.
3. We watch prices.
We try to fill up when the prices are good, rather than when we need propane. Pricing is best in the summer, and this past summer, prices got down around $1 per gallon. We went ahead and filled up then, which lasted for several months.
4. We seal up air leaks, when we can.
We noticed cold air was leaking through the front door, so we purchased cheap weather stripping and were able to drastically decrease the cold air coming in. It might not sound like much, but it can add up to big savings.
5. We use a programmable thermostat.
The temperature automatically lowers when we leave the house and while we’re sleeping — saving a significant amount of propane (and money!)
Heating is a large expense for those of us who live in the Northern part of the country. But thankfully, there are ways to make it more manageable.
Ruth is a homeschooling mom of 3 kids, ages 10, 7, and 4.