Winter Is Coming - Brace Yourself For High Energy Costs
The combination of dropping temperatures and rising fuel costs is putting a chill into the hearts of many people this year. According to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, the average cost of home heating is expected to be more than 17% higher than it was last year. This is the second year in a row that prices have gone up. National Grid has warned its customers that their electricity bills could go up 64% this winter.
Workers Credit Union Assistant Vice President and Financial Wellness Coach Brent Baron says some of the members he has spoken to are concerned about their bills, so much so that they are concerned about being forced to choose between paying their mortgage and fuel costs. However, he believes there are ways to bundle up your finances to help you weather the storm.
- Make Small Changes – It may seem like a tiny thing but doing small home improvements can pay off. Consider installing a door sweep on an exterior facing door to keep away a draft, insulating windows with clear film, updating a thermostat, replacing the filter in your central air or heating system, and sealing power outlets. Keeping your heat at a lower temperature, especially at night can help conserve energy. It’s also a good idea to tune up your heating system once a year to make sure it’s running as efficiently as possible.
- Plan Ahead – Winter fuel costs are something you can plan for all year. It starts with creating a budget. This will reveal what expenses are necessary and which ones can be cut if more money is needed to keep the lights on and your home warm. Eating at home instead of eating out not only can save you the expense but running the oven can make your house warmer. Also, a rainy day (or in this case a snowy day) fund is a great tool to prepare you to handle an unexpected financial challenge. This fund should have a minimum of a thousand dollars in it but should grow until you can cover six months of expenses.
- Spread Out Your Payments – Some power companies have flexible pay programs that allow customers to pay one consistent amount each month that covers the increased winter cost. So, while you’ll be paying more in more temperate months, having a program like this will make your expenses more predictable throughout the year.
- Take Advantage of Energy Programs - There are some great money-saving resources out there if you just know where to look. Mass Save has a program for customers of participating power companies where someone will come to your home to do a free home energy assessment. In some cases, they'll even give you upgrades to energy-saving items like lightbulbs and updated thermostats at no cost to you, and discounts on insulation. Check with your power company to see if you are eligible. If the assessment reveals the need for larger energy projexts such as a new boiler, Workers Credit Union can help members with a credit score of 620 or higher with a 0% APR Heat Lean for up to $25,000 that can be spread out over 84 months. There are also government programs for those who need it. The Massachusetts Low Income Energy Home Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps eligible households pay their bills.
Winter doesn’t have to freeze your finances. Being proactive can save you both money and stress. If you need help creating a budget or overcoming a financial challenge, consider meeting with a Workers Credit Union Financial Wellness Coach.
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