For many, the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. In many places, a gentle coating of snow twinkles on the ground, creating a sense of magic. Illuminated decorations on houses, lawns, town commons, and shops sparkle in the night, bringing warmth and coziness in the darkness of winter. Inside, strings of lights wrap around Christmas trees, brightening homes with holiday cheer. Many families cook a great feast to share with friends and relatives. With so many guests over, it often seems like everything in the house gets turned on at once as everybody bustles with activity, sometimes going late into the night. Unfortunately, all that decorating, celebrating, and socializing can have a big impact on your electric bill.
For all the wonder of the season, holidays aren’t cheap. The list of things you need to buy is almost as long as Santa’s own—from the presents to the food, there’s always something you need to pick up. It’s also the coldest time of year in the U.S., which means you’ll need to pay more for heat. On top of it all, that extra electricity use means that energy rates peak. Taken together, these expenses can put a significant dent in your budget.
Nobody wants to be stressing over the cost of the holidays when they should be enjoying time with their friends and family. Still, for all too many, fiscal anxiety comes with the territory. While it isn’t possible to avoid the extra costs of the holiday season entirely, there are ways to alleviate the burden. With a few minor adjustments to your holiday activities, it’s possible to reduce your electricity bill while still having a very merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and joyous Kwanzaa:
Saving Electricity on Holiday Decorations
Your illuminated holiday decorations can eat up a significant amount of electricity. In towns and cities across the United States, putting up decorations can even get competitive as neighbors race to keep up with, and often outdo, each other. Even when not competing, the math here is simple: the more lighted decorations you put up, the higher your electricity bill will be. For example, one strand of regular incandescent lights uses about 40 watts of electricity. If you’ve got ten of them, that’s about 400 watts, which is 40% of the amount of energy a typical suburban house uses in a month. To keep your costs in check, consider:
Using Fewer Lighted Decorations
Inflatable snowmen, giant candy canes, and rollicking light-up reindeer may be festive, but they can also be expensive. Instead of choosing decorations that use electricity, consider other options. Hanging greenery, stringing colored garlands, and decorating your windows with cut-out snowflakes are all ways to bring your home holiday cheer without using any electricity at all, plus they can be great crafting projects for both adults and kids. For those who are ready to take their crafting to the next level, consider tying your own wreaths, swags, and teardrops.
This tip can go for your Christmas tree as well. While they don’t use as much energy as your yard decorations, the lights and electric ornaments on your Christmas tree contribute to your electric bill as well. Consider trimming the tree with fewer lights and more garlands. Using a timer or unplugging the tree when everyone goes to sleep can help you save energy and be important fire safety precautions too.
Shortening Your Decoration Duration
It seems like the holiday season comes earlier each year—it’s not uncommon for shops to start playing holiday music as early as October these days. But if you want to use a lot of lighted decorations in your yard without paying through the nose for it, delay your own start to the season. Putting your decorations up only a few weeks before the holidays can help you cut down on your bill and may also increase your appreciation for the decorations, making the time that they are up even more special. Naturally, this tip works on the other side of the holiday season, too; the quicker you take your decorations down after the holidays, the less you’ll end up paying for electricity.
Saving Electricity While Celebrating
The holidays are a time for family, friends, and feasting, not worrying about pinching pennies. Still, using a few quick tricks can help keep your mind on your festivities and off your fiscal anxiety. To save electricity during your celebrations, you can:
Cook Multiple Dishes at Once
You don’t have to bake your ham separately from your potatoes. Putting them in the oven at the same time not only lowers the amount of energy you’ll use, it also speeds up dinner preparations, allowing you to spend more time with your loved ones.
Use the Right Pan for the Job
For stovetop dishes, don’t use a small pan on a large burner, or a large pan on a small burner. Using the right size pan increases the efficiency of your heating element, whether you have an electric or gas stove.
Use Residual Heat
Your stovetop will probably stay hot for several minutes after you’ve turned off the heat. You can use this to your advantage by letting the residual heat put the finishing touches on your meal. Not only does this help shave a little off your electric bill, it reduces the risk of anyone hurting themselves on a hot burner after you’re done using it. This trick works for both electric and gas ovens.
Light a Fire
If you happen to have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, the holidays are a great time to use it. Not only can it reduce your reliance on electric heat or other methods, it creates a lovely gathering place for your family and friends. Not to mention, with a real yule log warming your room, you won’t have to watch one on TV—saving you even more electricity. You may also want to try having a candlelight dinner. You’ll save a little in electricity with the lights off and seriously improve your ambience.
Smoothing Rate Spikes with a Fixed-Rate Energy Plan
Lowering your electricity usage is a really good way to control your costs over the holidays. Another way to take control of your electricity bill is to find a more stable way to buy electricity. Most electricity plans are based on variable rates, meaning that as the cost your power supplier pays for electricity varies, so does yours. However, some electricity suppliers offer what are known as fixed-rate energy plans. Under a fixed-rate energy plan, the rate you pay for electricity is agreed upon by you and your power supplier at the start of your plan. For the duration of your agreement, you’ll pay exactly that price for electricity, not more, not less. So when the price of electricity rises for your power supplier during the holiday season, you still pay the same steady rate you always do.
Fixed-rate energy plans are primarily useful to smooth out the peaks and valleys in your electricity payments. Over the course of the year, you’ll probably end up spending about the same amount as you would with a variable-rate plan. The advantage lies in when you pay it. Knowing that your electric rates won’t shoot through the roof in December can help you plan ahead and maybe even find room in your budget to treat your loved ones to something special this holiday season. After all, the holidays aren’t about Scrooging every last dime you can from your celebrations. They’re about doing something nice for the people you love.
At Liberty Power, we believe the holiday should be a time of celebration, not worrying about your electric bill. That’s why we offer fixed-rate energy plans, giving you the predictability you need to keep your budget in check. We’re happy to help you get started on making the switch today. And, of course, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other winter holiday, we at Liberty Power hope you have a magical season with your friends and family.
Photo Credit: DiEtte Henderson