By Shannon Buck – Copyright September 2006
Winter is not far off, and we are beginning to prepare at our home. These are the steps that we are taking this year. Hopefully some of the steps will help to save us a little money.
* My old porch was rotting away. Two of the steps had already broken, and a couple more would have before winter was over. The people who built the porch hadn’t done a good job. The porch was also not very big. I recently purchased the materials to build a new one. To save on costs, my stepfather built the new porch himself. He is quite the carpenter, and I just love my new porch. He used good materials, and put it together properly. All I have to do is put the WaterSeal on to waterproof it. I will be doing this next week. The total cost was under $400.00. The porch is safe, and will hold a couple of chairs and a small table next year, as well as a small decorative plant stand and a clothes rack. (Update 2011: This project may cost more now with the increase in prices over the years. Look for sources of free wood that will be sturdy enough to use, or offer to purchase unused wood from others.)
My stepfather kept a couple of the better pieces of wood from the old porch. He will be using them to make the back steps sturdier. I will not have to pay anything for that project.
* I purchased plastic for the windows and for banking the trailer at the Family Dollar today. The plastic for the banking was only $3.00 per package, and it was less per package for the window plastic. I also purchased a bundle of wood slats and some nails at the hardware store. We already have some nails and wood slats, and some of the plastic from previous years is still useable. I reuse these types of things as many times as I can to cut costs. (Update 2011: The Family Dollar still sells this, but the price may have gone up slightly. I think the Dollar Tree may have some for a dollar.)
I will have a small section of plastic between the porch and the trailer that I will leave in place permanently. This way I will not have to climb under the porch year after year. I do not like spiders. Before putting the plastic over the rest of the skirting, I will plug in the heating tape under the trailer. This will prevent the water from freezing this winter, which will prevent my pipes from bursting.
When I clean the windows for the last time before winter, I will replace the screening and add a layer of plastic between the inner and outer windows. I will also cover the small bathroom windows with plastic.
All of these things will help to cut our heating costs this year.
* We replaced our old stove this past spring. The other one was old and barely worked. The new one is more energy efficient. We replaced the refrigerator a couple of years ago, and the water heater last spring. However, we purchased a dryer and a dishwasher. I’m not sure how all of these factors will affect the electric bill this winter. I think that I will save money in the long run.
The dishes air dry in the dishwasher. We just open the door when the dishes are done washing. This saves on the electric bill.
The lighter laundry will still be air dried, and the dryer will be used for heavier items. We will still hang laundry during the good weather months.
I am on a payment plan with the electric company. This means that I pay the same amount every month of the year. I am paying $79.00 every month.
* I had to replace the oil tank this year as well. I had a “dog house” built around it so I can still use the #2 oil. Kerosene would be too expensive. I am also on a payment plan for oil.
* I will discuss with my daughters (again) the importance of wearing warm clothing and covering up while watching TV. The heat will not go above 68* during the winter months, unless the temperature outside goes below 10* or 15*. I turn the heat down to 63*-65* before going to bed each night, 68* if it is below 10* to 15*. (Update 2011: At bed time each night last winter the heat was turned down to 50*-55*, except on the coldest nights when it did not go above 60*)
This is tricky. We all have warm jammies and slippers, as well as robes. We keep fleece blankets or quilts on the couch and chair for when we are watching TV. We also have warm fleece blankets, quilts and big comfy comforters on our beds. You can get all of these at yardsales and discount stores if you look often enough. Rite Aid has sales on fleece throw blankets sometimes, 3 for $10.00.
* Before winter hits, we will make sure that our shovels are in good working condition, and we will get ice melter for the porch and driveway.
* We are deep cleaning the trailer as well. This includes rinsing the furnace door filter and vacuuming the vents. We will also soak the vent covers in warm soapy water and vacuum the furnace area to ensure that everything can run properly. We do have to replace one of the vent covers. This will not cost more than $10.00.
* Skye and Zowie will cover the picnic table with plastic as well. We have no place to put this during the winter months. They will stack the plastic chairs and cover them with a large trash bag. The will put the wheel barrow and the bikes into our shed.
* I picked up a rug to put in the front entry. This will keep the living room rug from getting wet. I also hope to pick up a runner for my room and Skye’s room. We do not have carpeting. I will pick the runners up at the Family Dollar if they have them, which will save a few dollars.
* I am stocking up on food, household items, and personal hygiene items as they are on sale. Sometimes I can even find a good coupon for the items we need. Coupling the sales with coupons is a great way to save money.
* If I think of it, I will purchase some of those outlet plugs that you get when you are child-proofing your home. This is supposed to stop some of those drafts from coming in, therefore reducing the need to turn up the thermostat. I may, someday, add one of those programmable thermostats.
* I use the slow cooker a lot during this time of the year. This uses less electricity, and I can buy cheaper cuts of meat without jeopardizing taste. I start with a potato for each of us, chopped, then add the meat and cover it all with water. When I am about a half-an-hour from serving dinner, I add frozen or canned vegetables. We add our own seasonings when we fill our plates. If I use pasta instead of potatoes, I put the noodles in 5-15 minutes before serving the meal. You can make chowders and lasagna in the slow cooker as well.
Make a list of all of the things that you have to do to prepare for winter, and another of the purchases that you need to make. Starting these and beginning the work now will ensure that you do not have too much to do all at once.