As a proud and often loud penny pincher, I'm always asked if there is anything I will splurge on.
I buy brand-name name potato chips, Utz. They are, in my opinion, the best chips. Doesn't matter if they are on sale or not; I've got to have them.
And I hate to be cold. So I do tend to make my home tropically warm during the winter.
But with rising energy costs, I may have to give up that last indulgence and keep the thermostat at a lower temperature this winter.
I know there are a lot of people who are worrying about heating costs this winter. I received this question from a reader: "How scared should we really be about the price of gas in heating our homes this fall and winter? I've heard horror stories about how expensive it will be. I'm worried. Please tell me I'm wrong."
Sorry, it's going to be a cold and expensive winter for a lot of folks. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is projecting that temperatures this winter will be 3.2 percent colder compared to last year.
Heating bills are expected to jump as much as 48 percent, according to the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration.
On average, households heating primarily with:
¢ natural gas can expect to spend about $350 more, or 48 percent, this winter on fuel.
¢ heating oil can expect to pay $378 more, or 32 percent.
¢ propane can expect to pay $325 more, or 30 percent.
¢ electricity can expect to pay $38 more, or 5 percent.
To help consumers find ways to reduce their energy bills, the Energy Department has launched a national campaign, "Easy Ways to Save Energy," which includes an online guide to Web sites and other resources for energy efficient tips. Go to www.energysavers.gov for a wealth of money-saving information.
The Web site includes an Internet-based tool for calculating your energy use. Click on the link that says "Home Energy Saver." Based on your ZIP code you can find out the energy costs of an average home compared with a more energy-efficient home in your area. After inputting information about your home, you can get an audit of your energy consumption and tailored suggestions to save on your energy bill.
There's no use worrying about what your energy bill will do to your budget this winter. Instead, do something about it. Despite rising energy costs, little more than a quarter of Americans say they plan to take measures to conserve energy in their homes, according to a nationwide survey by the National Oilheat Research Alliance, a nonprofit organization chartered by Congress for the support of heating oil research and development, technical training and consumer education.
For example, when was the last time you had your furnace serviced? When's the last time you replaced the filter for your heat pump or furnace? Gas furnaces that have dirty filters, leaky ducts or are in need of repair use significantly more energy (i.e., higher gas bills) to produce the same amount of heat in the living space, points out Pacific Gas and Electric Co.
There really are a number of easy things we all can do to cut down on our energy bills.
My children were constantly leaving the lights on after leaving a room. I found a solution to that problem. I deduct money from their allowances every time I find a light on in a room they've left. The first week I implemented this policy, my 10-year-old daughter, Olivia, only received enough money from her allowance to pay her tithes and offerings at church. You better believe she remembers - well, most of the time - to turn off my lights now.
In our house, we're adopting the slogan for this year's Energy Awareness Month (which is October, by the way): "Not In Use? Turn Off the Juice!"