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Energy-Saving Tips for Every Season

Energy-Saving Tips for Every Season

No matter what time of year it is, there’s a pretty good chance you’re using more energy than you need to be using on a daily basis. Through winter, spring, summer, and fall, there are many different tweaks you can make to your home to reduce your energy usage, and save some money in the process. While many of these energy-saving methods overlap throughout the seasons, most target a specific time of year in which they will be most useful.

Saving Energy in Winter

Most people’s energy usage spikes throughout the winter months. The cold, snowy weather, coupled with early darkness, means heat and lighting will be used throughout the majority of each day. While there isn’t much you can do to get around using your heat and lights more than you would during other times of the year, there are many ways you can ensure you’re using this energy to its maximum potential during the winter.

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No matter how cold it gets, keep your thermostat programmed to a warm 68°F. This level of temperature will keep you comfortable and not put excess stress on your heating system. In turn, you won’t see a spike in your heating bill—it should remain fairly constant, even throughout the coldest weeks of the year.

Be sure to clean, maintain, or replace your furnace filter as necessary. A blocked-up filter will also result in a stressed-out heater, and an increased bill. Not only that, but if warm air is being blocked by a clogged filter, you air you do get won’t be nearly as warm as you’d like (which will likely result in you turning up the heat, and wasting more energy and money).

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Check the areas in which your house comes into contact with the outside. This includes windows, doors, and your plumbing system. Ensure the space between the inside and outside is completely sealed so warm air can’t escape. Again, if you’re losing warm air in any way, you’ll end up turning up the heat. Don’t take the easy way out; check the seals around your home and keep the warm air in.

Saving Energy in the Summer

The summer months are a great time to save energy. Though it may get incredibly hot in your area of the world, it’s much easier to deal with heat than with extreme cold—at least in terms of energy usage.

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If you use an air conditioner or central air system (for which I don’t blame you!), again make sure your filters are clean and your windows and openings are sealed. Like using the heat during the winter, clogged filters and open seals will mean your cooling system will be working overtime—which will lead to much larger bills for you each month.

There are other, less obvious ways to stretch your energy usage throughout the summer months, too. When possible, give your clothes dryer and dishwasher a break; use a clothesline when the sun is out to dry your clothes, and use a simple drying rack rather than relying on your dishwasher’s drying cycle. You likely don’t need your clothes or dishes right away, so let the naturally warm air do its thing for you, free of charge.

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You might notice your refrigerator works overtime in the summer months, as well. You can combat this by stocking it as much as possible. Think about it: the smaller the amount of space, the less it has to work. It’s why I don’t mind living in a small apartment rather than a gigantic mansion (or at least that’s what I tell myself!).

Saving Energy in Spring and Fall

The transitional periods of the year, spring and fall, are actually the times in which you should be most diligent about your energy usage. Since the temperature can fluctuate from day to day during these times of year, you shouldn’t rely on an automated thermostat; it will likely waste more energy starting up and turning off throughout the day than it’s actually worth. Instead, play it by ear: open or close your windows depending on your preference rather than using excess energy.

These transition periods are a good time to prepare for the extreme hot or cold weather ahead. Do all the maintenance discussed above (filters, seals, etc.) while the weather is comfortable, so you’re not scrambling to improve your situation in the dead of summer or winter. Think ahead, and you’ll be sure to stay comfortable year-round.

Featured photo credit: 2 / Stanley Zimny via farm2.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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