Pinching Pennies and Stretching Dollars | Overstuffed Overstuffed

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pinching Pennies and Stretching Dollars

I got my heating bill yesterday.  I always have to hold my breath and say a little prayer before I open it.  A prayer that it won't be horrifically high, and if it is, that I won't have a heart attack.  Heating costs are pretty high around here in the first place, we have an old and drafty house that is bigger than our last houses have been and, obviously, it's also extremely cold outside! (High yesterday?  Two measly degrees.)

Want to know how much it was?

Of course you do.

It was $203.47.

Everyone says that the January and February bills are the highest, so I wasn't surprised that it was higher than my bills have been so far.   But this is what I'm paying when I am an absolute Nazi about keeping the heat at 62-65 degrees during the day, and like 50 degrees at night.  We have radiator heat, and a brick home, so it almost never falls that low unless it's like 20 below outside, which it has been the last few nights.

I do have a point in my absolute indelicacy (isn't it pretty taboo to tell people what your bills are?  Sorry.).  In order to actually pay this bill and the next couple (hoping February's isn't any higher!), I'm going to have to keep stretching the dollars even further than I have been.

And I know how to stretch a dollar pretty well, let me tell you. Now, I haven't been using coupons much up here, simply because none of the list sites like Grocery Game have my area on them.  But my friend Sharyn recently sent me a link to a blog that lists grocery deals just for the Copper Country.  So, now I just need to figure out what newspaper to get for the national coupons since our local newspaper doesn't even do a Sunday delivery, much less have Sunday coupons.

But I'm stretching it pretty far in as many ways as I can.  Now I want to know what your favorite penny pinching tips are.


Help me pay my heating bill.

Happy Friday!


  1. I do the same thing with our Electric bill. I swear they aren't calculating something right. I am a nazi too with the thermostat. Blows my mind!

  2. Oof, yeah, I hear you. Ours is about that high, and we don't live in a cold place anymore (when we lived in Minneapolis and froze to death all winter, it was even higher!). Same thing, though: old, drafty house, AND since it's chilly almost year round here, we have the furnace on from October to June. Gross. But I wish we had radiator heat like you—we have evil forced air, so even in the damp winter we're dehydrated and our skin is horribly dry. Blah.

    Hmm, penny pinching tips? Actually, it seems silly, but one of our biggest is bulk spices, bulk spices, bulk spices. If you can find a hippie natural foods store or co-op somewhere, I bet you'll find bulk spices. It saves us several hundred dollars a year, no joke. Other bulk food helps, too; a little box of arborio rice (for risotto) is like 9 bucks packaged, but we can buy it in bulk for like 2 bucks for the same amount. The list goes on. Try the bulk section!

  3. Mine was really high last month too... we had three weeks of record lows and I was dreading it... if it makes you feel better, it was 47 dollars higher than yours!

  4. Wow! That is a lot. Have you tried getting some of the safer space heaters? You may be against them but if you use them safely in the day you should be fine. We keep our temp around 74 in the day and 68 at night and that is as cold as I can go.

  5. I've never been super great about penny pinching so I think I'm useless to you here. =[ Sorry.

  6. Does your electric/gas company have an option for you to make an average monthly payment year round, so that your monthly bill is always the same and then once a year you are credited/debited the difference? I find it helps to know the payment is the same year-round and it is easier to budget.

  7. Our gas bill has been so much higher lately too (not as high as yours thank goodness, but much higher than they were). It's frustrating. No great ideas to share, other than making a menu has helped me with meal making, and I have very high hopes that that will curb my grocery spending.

  8. I tought it would be much higher for the UP...our bill is much higher than that.

    Anyway....we save money by never going out to eat. I also menu plan so I only buy exactly what I need at the grocery store. The other thing is, I only go to the store once a week, period. If we run out, then we do with out. Exceptions of course are diapers and anything baby related.

    Another thing I would suggest is putting plastic on your widows, if you have single paine older windows. We have the last 2 winters and it's really helped.

  9. In Newfoundland they did that averaging over the year thing.

  10. That's crap! (your bill, that is!!)

    Here in the desert, everyone fears summer a/c bills. For an avg size home, they are usually $250-$400 a month. Sucky, I know.

    Have you read any of Ann Dacyzyn (sp?) "Tightwad Gazette" books?

    They are chock full of fab thrifty ideas. Some are nutsy, others are easy to implement in your life. I found 'em @ my public library then bought the entire set on Amazon. A great investment!

  11. Ok I really thought it'd be higher....
    Think how lovely it will be during the summer. Have you thought about having them level out your bill?

  12. Seal your windows with plastic. Extra caulk, too. Leave the oven open when you're done cooking - don't waste the heat! Call the gas company for tips and special offers.

    (I have a similar heart attack every time we open an electric bill during an Arizona summer - the worst? $630. When I kept the house at 82. DON'T GET ME STARTED.)

  13. Hi there! I've never commented, though I've wanted to, found you through a comment on Sharyn T.'s site. Anyway really quick, I make my own laundry detergent, here's a link to my write up: Not even sure if links work here, sorry. Hopefully you can cut and paste. Super quick here (we're running out the door in 15 min, yikes!!), I love your humor, I would have decorated a bathroom like you did a while ago, my oldest daughter's name is Lara, We go through your town every summer to our camp on Sedar Bay and my husband and I are both vocalists (former music teach/choral conductor myself) I kind of feel like we have a lot in common through this cyber world. (-: Gotta run. ~ Julie

  14. I'm with Destiny -- the year round gas bill. Though for the record, our went up $5/mo this last time. And we keep our house between 63 and 65, as well. I'm not sure how much of a difference this makes, but I used the cold water detergent and never wash in hot or warm water, unless it's something I really care about.

    High-efficiency light bulbs? Showering with hubby to save on water? Clearance racks? you probably do those things already, but that's about all I got.

  15. Whew! That is high. Our house is Murray had bills like that though-older house.

    I agree with the space heaters. We are using them in our basement since it is so cold down there, then we don't crank the heat. Still, I can't believe you keep your therm that low.

    Mine is at 68 all day, sometimes higher.

  16. OUCH!

    You've read all about my plan, so I really have nothing else to offer as far as that goes. I did find that our biggest money waster was eating out. That, and trips to the store for one or two things that we could have easily added to the next week's list.

    You're so good at managing and stretching, you should be giving the rest of us advice!!!

  17. We're trying to find new ways of keeping the electric bill down. We don't turn our heat down at night. I think it would take more energy for the heat to kick on in the morning. We have decided to unplug everything(except the microwave because we don't want to have to reset the clock every day). We'll see how that helps. Our bill is similar to yours.

    And we did do the comfort level billing, but discovered when we moved that we had to pay $400 extra dollars that I guess had been adding up over time. It sucked. So no more comfort level for us.

  18. our electric bill in the summer is almost $400. ouch.

    my money saving tip (for me at least): don't go to the store.

  19. Now you have me feeling guilty for keeping our thermostat at 72 degrees, day and night. (I would turn it down at night, but I have a baby who doesn't stay under covers.) Anyhow, I have been watching some of the savings blogs/websites (freebies2deals, hip2save, etc.), BUT ... my favorite new way to save money is through food co-ops. You might want to see if there is one in your area (or kind of close). Ours is all fresh fruits and veggies - and it has been a lifesaver! YAY!

  20. We've lived here in northern WI for almost 6 years, and have had the same experience (therm set at 65 during the day, 60 at night, and $350 avg gas and electric bill). I guess that's the way of having a house built in 1904 without the best windows or insulation! We have always done plastic on the windows. One idea that has worked well is a wall mounted electric heater ( It's a 2 foot by 2 foot plug in that is part convection, part radiant heat. It heats a room well and costs 2-3 cents/hour. Might be worth looking into. This last summer we also put in a wood burning stove as a primary heat source. While it's A LOT of work, our house in now frequently 80-85 degrees and yummy warm. We just need to work on better windows and insulation! The heating bills now are $110-$120. Very nice!

  21. Maybe this is a no-brainer for others, but I had to figure it out for myself: When I plan my meals, I plan them two weeks out, and if I don't use one of those meals during the two weeks, I let it carry over into the next two-week period so as to avoid having to buy as much food....this usually happens when we have cereal for dinner, or leftovers, or go over to a friend's house for dinner when we didn't expect it.