Saving money on holiday utilities bills

When the weather turns cold, people are used to paying more for their utilities bills because they're generally turning up the heat and spending more time in their homes. And when the holidays roll around, those bills can shoot up even more quickly as a result of all the lights and new electronics that are being plugged in and used on a regular or even nightly basis. As a result, that could lead to many Americans paying more for their utilities than they usually bargained for.

Those who want to keep those costs as low as possible therefore may need to take some steps to make sure they're doing all they can to be more efficient with how much power they use, according to a report from Wired. For example, many homes still use old, inefficient lights on their trees or around the outside of their homes, and while it may not seem like it, that can actually end up being quite costly over the course of an entire holiday season.

For this reason, it might be wise for consumers to invest a little bit of money into buying new LED lights, which tend to be fairly inexpensive - depending, obviously, upon how many lights are being purchased - and are far more energy efficient than old incandescent bulbs that people used for decades, the report said. So while there is some initial cost, these lights are going to pay for themselves with energy savings, usually within a year or two. The lights also tend to last a lot longer before they need to be replaced, so that's an additional savings bonus in the years to come.

Other ways to save
In addition, consumers who invest in decorations that require electricity - such as the big, inflatable characters that go on a front lawn - will necessarily see their costs rise as well, and often significantly, the report said. But beyond that, there are also concerns about how to heat a home that many Americans might get wrong. For instance, many don't have "smart" thermostats that allow them to automatically turn the heat down when they're not home - potentially saving plenty over the course of a holiday season, entire winter, and beyond - also for a relatively small initial investment, usually somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 or $100. That's another household item that will typically pay for itself very quickly, and one consumers would be wise to at least think about.

What to do with the money
While the temptation may be there to spend the extra money that's being saved when it comes to energy costs on more presents and other goodies instead, it's usually a better idea to do something more productive. That could include putting it into an emergency savings fund, or using it to pay down outstanding credit card balances or other debts. That, in turn, will improve a household's financial standing for what could be years to come.

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