How to Save on Utilities (and Still Have Fun) Over the Holidays
The holidays are all about spending quality time with those you care about and spreading good cheer.
There’s just one little snag. Between stringing up lights, baking your favorite holiday treats and turning up the heat to fight off the winter chill, your utility bills can easily skyrocket. This may leave your bank account feeling the pinch, especially when you’re also spending money on things like gifts, entertainment and holiday travel.
In fact, the average person plans to spend $1,250 on holiday-related expenses, according to PwC’s 2018 Holiday Outlook. What to do? As you head into the holidays, try these tips to help you lower your utility costs.
Go LED for Holiday Lighting
Instead of sticking with your traditional outdoor holiday lights, consider making the switch to LED this year. Compared to regular incandescent bulbs, LED lights use at least 75% less energy, which means a lower electric bill for you.
“Set the lights on a timer, that way it’s one less thing on your plate,” says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trend expert at coupon and deal site RetailMeNot.
You can also use LED lights to save money inside your home when you’re hosting holiday get-togethers.
Arthur Smith, editor of LEDwatcher.com, a solar and LED lighting blog, says smart LED bulbs can save you money and set the mood for holiday entertaining.
“Smart LED bulbs are extremely versatile, because you can not only change the color of the light they emit, but also the intensity of the light, and when hosting a holiday party, bright lights aren’t always the best way to go,” he says.
And, here’s another pro tip: Skirboll says you can always skip the lights altogether and use candles for interior lighting.
“You get the same glow but at no additional cost to you, a win-win situation,” she says.
If you plan to do this, just make sure you are familiar with basic candle safety rules so holiday celebrations don’t turn into a fire hazard.
Invest in a Programmable Thermostat
Managing utility costs over the holidays and the winter months can be tough if you’re dealing with fluctuating temperatures or entertaining more often.
Josh Savage, owner of Hero Heating, Plumbing & Cooling in Minneapolis, Minnesota, says installing a programmable thermostat is one of the best ways to save on heating costs. You can set the thermostat to turn the heat down automatically at night or during the day when you’re at work or doing your holiday shopping.
Programmable thermostats can cost between $20 and $150, while smart models that connect to your smartphone can run upwards of $300. If you don’t have the cash in savings to swing it, try to get into the habit of turning the heat down before you go to bed or head out for the day.
Savage has a bonus tip for saving on utility costs during the holidays: “Turn the thermostat down before any holiday gatherings or parties.”
This works particularly well if you have people coming over and you’ll be doing a lot of cooking that generates heat, he says.
“Oftentimes people will end up opening a window to cool things back off, and that can be a waste of heat and money,” says Savage.
Use Smart Power Strips
If you’re plugging your Christmas tree and holiday lights into a power strip, consider upgrading to smart versions to save on utility costs.
“Most electronics use electricity even when they’re turned off,” says Jill Caponera, consumer savings expert at PromoCodes.com.
This creates a “vampire load” effect, which adds up to an average cost of $200 per year.
“Smart power strips turn off the power to electronics when they’re not in use, and can be set to turn off at specific times or during times of inactivity,” Caponera says.
Opt for Potluck When Planning Holiday Meals
Matthias Alleckna, an energy industry analyst and creator of energy cost comparison site Energyrates.ca, says that if you’re planning a holiday dinner, make it a group effort.
“The less time you spend cooking, the more money you save,” since you’re not running your stove, oven or other appliances as often, says Alleckna.
To make coordinating potluck dinners easier, use an app like Perfect Potluck or Meal Train to keep track of who’s bringing what. If you need to reimburse anyone for last-minute purchases, like a couple of bottles of wine or extra napkins, you can use the “Pay Friends” feature through your Chime mobile banking app to pay them back.
Simply log into your Chime app, select the “Move Money” tab, click “Transfers” and select “Pay Friends”. Plug in your friend’s name, phone number or email, the amount you want to send and complete the transfer.
Know Your Peak Energy Hours
Your electric company may rate your energy use differently throughout the day, so check with your utility company to see if they have a time-of-use schedule, says Sophie Kaemmerle, neighborhood expert for background check platform Neighbor Who.
You may be charged more for energy during peak hours so it pays to know when the cheapest times of day are.
“Most utility companies offer discounts if you run major appliances, like washers, dryers and dishwashers at off hours,” Kaemmerle says.
Typically off hours are after 7 p.m. This means that waiting until after dark to turn on holiday lights, do the laundry or bake up a batch of gingerbread cookies can help you save money on your electric bill.
Spread the Energy Savings
While you’re cutting down your own energy use over the holidays, give your friends and family a hand as well by purchasing energy-efficient gifts, says Alleckna. If you’re not sure whether a gift is energy-efficient, check for the Energy Star sticker. You can find it on things like computers, appliances, DVD players, TVs and phones.
“Energy Star-rated products use up to 60% less energy than standard ones, which can represent a lot of money at the end of the day,” says Neighbor Who’s Kaemmerle.
Bank on Lower Utility Costs During the Holidays
High utility bills can lead to a holiday hangover and that’s not how you want to start off the new year.
Using one (or all) of these tips in your daily routine can help you cut down on your energy usage during the holidays and beyond. And remember: The more money you save on energy, the more cash you’ll have to spend on holiday fun.