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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Use a Programmable Thermostat {Week 43}

Each week for 52 weeks, I’m sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

One great way to save a significant amount of money is to use a programmable thermostat. Here’s what Melody emailed in and said:

We save quite a bit of money by using my programmable thermostat wisely!

They say you can save about 10% off your heating bill by lowering the temp 3-4 degrees (this applies to your cooling bill in the summer, too). Of course, we keep our programmable thermostat cooler at night and during times we are out of the house, but I also have another trick I use for all day when I’m home. I keep the thermostat set for 62 degrees and then give myself permission to bump it up if I’m too cold.

I find about half the time I don’t even notice that it’s set so low, and if I do, it’s often in the afternoon so it’s only set higher for an hour or two. By starting at 62 degrees instead of 68 degrees I estimate that in our cold climate we save well over $100 a year! -Melody

Want to lower your house temperatures, but don’t want to feel freezing all the time? Here are some simple suggestions:

1. Stay Active

Clean your house, chase your kiddos around, do some jumping jacks, or walk up and down the stairs a few times. Get your heartrate pumping and you’ll forget that you turned the thermostat down!

Door Sixteen shows you how to make a homemade door stop to keep the draft out.

2. Drink Hot Tea

I love a cup of hot tea with a splash of milk and honey! And it’s a great way to warm your insides up on a cold day.

3. Bake Something

Spend some time baking something yummy in your kitchen and you’ll warm yourself — and your house! — up in the process. Plus, you’ll have some delicious, fresh-from-the-oven food to eat, too! 🙂

4. Wear Socks

Anytime we’re cold, my first suggestion is to put some socks on. If your feet are warm, it usually helps the rest of your body to stay warm.

5. Put on Extra Layers

Instead of turning the thermostat up, put another layer on. We all have hoodies that we wear in the winter — often over another two layers — and it’s amazing how warm these keep you!

I loved this idea from Jody who blogs at Because I’m Me:

For a long time, I’ve been on my kids to turn the lights off, unplug things we’re not using, close the doors, take shorter showers, etc. They were tired of hearing it and weren’t listening.

One day a light bulb went on in the brain and I presented my children with the following offer: Each month the electric bill was below $190 they’d get the dollar amount the bill was below $190 (i.e.: if the bill were $180 they’d get $10). That money would go towards a party, be it candy, ice cream, cake, pizza, chips, whatever they could buy with that money. I never buy food like that, so it would be a real treat for them.

The first month the bill was still up there around $200, an encouraging improvement but not what they needed.

By the second month, the bill was only $162. Yup, almost $65 less than usual! Not too shabby. And it gave them $28 to blow on junk food. I never expected them to get it as low as that!

In addition to a lower electric bill, my children were able to learn valuable lessons. For example, how to budget that $28 to get the best bang for their buck while pleasing all six kids.

They opted to purchase store brand soda, inexpensive ice cream, lots of buy one, get one free items, use coupons, and to pass on some items that were just too expensive. When all was said and done they managed to have enough junk food for one fine party and many days of treats afterward, and they contributed $10 to a dinner of Chinese take-out!

Last week one of my sons said he wished we’d get an electric bill every day so he could keep track of the amount of the bill throughout the month. I wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity for a “teachable moment”, so out came the electric bill, an explanation of how to read the meter and a brief “field trip” to the side of the house where the meter is. Now he can check every day, do the multiplication and addition and see if we’re staying on track.

We are now four months into this deal and the interest has not waned!Jody

Related: 7 Tips to Reduce Your Heating Bill

How do you keep your heating bills lower? What are your best tricks for staying warm without turning up the heat?

photo source

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  • Melissa says:

    I love tip #4 “Wear socks.” Costco has great merino wool socks for a fraction of the price you’ll pay at the Walking Company. Since this has been such a cold winter, these socks are a money saver for me! I can’t believe what a difference they make 🙂

  • Dan says:

    One of the ways we save on our heating bill is to leave the oven door open after using it so that all the heat gets circulated into the kitchen. Having an open layout in our home means it gets circulated even more. Since we make most of our food at home we do this often and it definitely helps

  • Mel says:

    I loved Jody’s idea! Awesome!

  • Carol says:

    These are great! But 62?! Yikes! I thought I was doing well at 66. 🙁

  • Amy says:

    We bought a whole-house humidifier last fall. (Yes, they cost costs $150-200, but we used Lowes gift cards we got on Black Friday for 20% off (a discount the grocery store does each year.)) I have really dry skin, and am currently pregnant (many pregnant women get bad sinus issues) and was waking up with nosebleeds. Within a few days of installing the humidifier, my nosebleeds were much better. Within a few weeks, they were gone, my dry skin was better, and I mentioned to my husband that I no longer had to wear sweatshirts and layers all day–the extra humidity made such a difference! We already used a programmable thermostat, but with the whole-house humidifier, we cranked it down even more. The extra humidity makes SUCH a difference in the warmth go the house. Definitely a worthwhile investment for us!!

    • Julie says:

      Thanks for the information. I also suffer from dry skin in the winter and have a cat with slight asthma. I expect that might help us both. We had the option of having a whole house humidifier installed when the house was built but it was well over $1000. They did tell us the extra humidity was also good for the hardwood floors. Sounds like a good idea all around.

    • I have chronic sinusitis and we have a very nice piano in our house as well as hardwood floors and we enjoy having a normal amount of humidity (40-60% depending on the climate). We bought a whole house humidifier and we pleasantly surprised by the added bonus of feeling warmer as well! Initial layout and installation has been well worth it in my opinion!

      Thanks for mentioning this!

    • Melissa says:

      Another benefit of the whole house humidifier? Less static electricity. My husband HATES being shocked like you wouldn’t believe and I can honestly say the humidifier increases his quality of life in the winter! lol!

  • My hubby has been getting on our 3 kids about leaving lights and electronics on. This is a great incentive to get them to turn things off. I’m going to suggest it to my husband. Thanks for sharing!

  • Julie C says:

    The temperature you keep your heat set at will vary depending on how big your home is, how air tight your home is, and how many other operations in your home put out heat: stove, oven, dehumidifier, and even 9 people showering puts a lot of warmth into our small-for-9 home. 🙂

    We invested in a new de-humidifier after realizing our 16 year old one is putting off more heat than draining humidity from our home; check your appliances to see if they are costing you more to run than a new-to-you one would cost to purchase.

  • Bethany says:

    Can I add something to #4? Wear hats! If the two ends of your body are warm, then you’ll be warmer. We lose a lot of heat through our heads, so you’d be amazed at the difference in how warm you feel when you put a hat on!

    • Melissa says:

      This is a great idea…I’m always pleasantly reminded of how well this works when I’m desperately cold in our drafty house.

      • Lana says:

        Our house was drafty until we put insulators behind EVERY switch and plug plate, inside and outside walls. The difference is absolutely incredible! We have lived in this house for 20 years and wish we had known 18 years ago. It has cut our utility bill by $30-$40 a month on top of being more comfortable. As a bonus we can no longer smell the crawlspace musty smell on rainy days.

    • This is so true! In the days before houses had heat, people slept with a night cap on.

      One of my children’s bedrooms is colder than the rest of the house, and one of the children in that room decided to start wearing a hat to sleep this winter. She has been much warmer that way.

  • Mei-Lyn says:

    Under #1 is a link to instructions on making a door snake, but does anyone know how to make one for homes that have wall-to-wall carpet in the entrance? I know we lose so much energy through the door because our living room is significantly warmer on the nights I throw a blanket at the door before bed. But I’d love to hear some solutions for something more permanent or something that can be there during the day when we’re out. I just think that a draft snake would drag really badly on the carpet and also the part on the outside might get wet/gross in bad weather. Thoughts? Ideas?

    • I just use rolled up towels during the winter as a door snake inside the door. It has cut the draftiness problem. When I need to open the door, I move the towels (we have double doors, so I just move the one in front of the one we open).

      If you are going in and out of that door (and not using the garage) you could still put up some towels at night while you are home to keep the house warmer then.

  • Susan L. says:

    I like all of the ideas for winter, but our thermostat issues (when our electric bill peaks) our not wintertime. Our issue is keeping the house cool enough in the summer without breaking the bank. We rarely use the oven in the summer, grill outdoors, etc., but with grilling outdoors (especially if it’s 103 out), eating outside is not an issue, and so several trips are made to take the food out and bring it back in where it is (relatively) cool. I do like the idea of the incentive for the kids. I wonder if that would work with my Muffin? He’s only three, but he’s obsessed with the idea of parties now. I’ve thought about asking my husband for, not a programmable thermostat (because we have one of those), but a WiFi thermostat (especially if they go on sale around Christmas) for when we are not home (especially in the summer). That way, you can keep the house fairly warm in the summer and cold in the winter and just buck it back to the wanted temperature for an hour or two before you come home. (I’m really hoping the prices come down as they are really pricey right now)

  • Roma says:

    Jody you are such a great mom love your idea! Crystal a knit cap around the house will also warm you up.

  • Patrice says:

    We have a 2-story house, so the downstairs bedrooms are always quite a bit warmer than upstairs. At night, we crank the heat way down to 58 or so and use a heated mattress pad in the upstairs bedroom.

  • Lana says:

    My kids are all grown but I used to charge a dollar for lights left on and it stopped really quick. Some of my children would make themselves literally sick with access to a load of junk food so that would not have been an option here. Our utility bill dropped by 1/3 when all of our children left home just because of less bedroom lights on, computers running and fewer showers.

    The best way for me to stay warm is to always wear a tank under my shirt. It keeps my torso much warmer and I am rarely cold. Wool socks are the way to go, too. I always wear socks and shoes all day but the wool really keeps my feet warmer. We have a large basket of throws available and everyone who comes over knows we have them for use. We tried a programmable thermostat a number of years ago and hated it so we took it out. I have wondered if maybe we just needed a different brand but hubby is not interested in trying that again.

  • diana says:

    I LOVE THESE STORIES! And what good ideas. Thanks for sharing

  • Karen says:

    It’s just my husband and me, so the two spare bedrooms rarely get used. We keep those rooms closed off when we’re running the heat or air and close the vents. When I’m in there, I can just open the vent, and it becomes warm or cool in just a few minutes.

  • Judy says:

    What a great article. We have the home zoned for upstairs and downstairs and during the day when we are out or at night as well the thermostat is programmed to drop to 65 degrees.
    I work from home some days a week so only the office room is used. Rather than turning up the heat/or ac for the whole house, I use a space heater or stand alone fan in the office room to keep myself comfortable and that has helped us save significant $$.
    We’re also looking into the nest programmable thermostat which is supposed to learn your usage patterns and know when you are not home to adjust the temperatures. You can also control it from your phone and adjust temperatures if you are out and forgot to modify it. – this is a good review of this thermostat

  • Jen says:

    I’m so cold blooded it’s not funny. Even with wearing socks, layers, drinking hot tea, moving around, I still find I’m cold and ours is set at 68!! The good news is I think we make up for it in summer when everyone else is using A/C and I’m perfectly comfortable when it’s 85-90!!!

  • Becky says:

    #2 says, “I love a cup of hot team with a…” Hot team??? lol 🙂

  • Janell K. says:

    What great & easy alternatives to keeping warm! My children are always leaving the lights on. I love the idea of using the money “saved” as a reward for turning off lights! I think I will challenge my own kids to do this!

  • Wear thermals and wool-blend socks! Those two things make all the difference to me.

    At night, pile on a few more blankets. They don’t have to be fancy. A large baby blanket will cover a child and provide an extra layer.

  • Gramma H. says:

    The hot water heater is one of the big power consumers, but I’ve found that if I flip the breaker switch to turn off the hot water heater as I go to bed, we still have very hot showers in the morning. I don’t usually turn the hot water heater back on until about 4-5pm, just before my husband gets home. There are exceptions–if I need to run the dishwasher during the day, etc. (then I turn it on for an hour), but I’ve found that I have plenty of ‘hot enough’ water to use for most kitchen/bathroom tasks, throughout the day. Basically our hot water heats for about 6-7 hours a day, most days. This system won’t work for some families (although I think most could get by turning the hot water off at night) , but we are empty-nesters, and it sure makes a difference in the electric bill!

  • Natalie says:

    This post make me laugh out loud!!!! Here in the sunshine state where it was in the mid-80’s today – it would be sheer insanity to get the thermostat to anywhere near the 60’s! Honestly, when the air in the house drops to 76 degrees the kiddos complain that it’s tooo cold! Too funny!

  • Lee says:

    Try wearing house slippers in addition to socks. You’d be VERY surprised at the difference it makes. Keeps you way toastier. It’s true, when your feet are warm,
    your entire body stays warmer.
    Also, make a doggy door draft using a long pool noodle–wrap a beach towel
    around and hold with rubber bands. Helps a lot.

  • Rebecca says:

    I’m a little late to the party here, just found your website (I’ve been devouring the tips). We keep our house at 74 degrees in the winter without turning on the heat at all! We invested in a pellet stove (a wood stove is also a great option if you have access to wood) and our electric bill is usually around $70-$80 in the winter (versus $200-$300 in the summer). They are kind of expensive up front, but it could be something you save and pay cash for 🙂

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