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December

December 2020 E-Newsletter

15 Ways to Lower Your Energy Bill


Christmas Lights
Keeping the lights on isn’t cheap — never mind the air conditioning, furnace and hot water heater. In fact, the typical family spends more than $1,400 per year on utilities, according to the Energy Department.

Tweaking your usage can lower your bill by as much as 25%. Try these effective ways to save money:
 
  1. Check seals on windows, doors and appliances.

  2. Fix leaky ductwork.

  3. Give your thermostat a nudge.

  4. Adjust your fridge and freezer temperature.

  5. Take shorter showers.

  6. Replace your showerhead.

  7. Don’t wash clothes in hot water.

  8. Fix leaky faucets.

  9. Adjust the temperature on your water heater.

  10. Purchase energy-efficient appliances.

  11. Ask about discounted rates.

  12. Swap out your lightbulbs.

  13. Install dimmer switches.

  14. Use smart power strips.

  15. Do an energy audit.

Keep reading to explore these ways to lower your electric bill, according to Energy.gov.


Heating and Cooling
Home heating and cooling are the biggest culprits behind hefty utility bills — and the best places to look for cost-cutting opportunities.

1. Check seals on windows, doors and appliances: Make sure your fridge and freezer are well sealed to keep the cold air where it belongs. The same goes for doors and windows. A bad seal allows energy to seep out, draining your wallet in the process.

2. Fix leaky ductwork: Improve the efficiency of heating and cooling systems by repairing leaky heating, ventilation and air conditioning ducts.

3. Give your thermostat a nudge: Set your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees when you’re asleep or away from home. Doing so for eight hours can lower your annual heating and cooling costs by around 10%. A programmable thermostat does the work for you.

4. Adjust your fridge and freezer temperature: Set your fridge to 38 degrees and your freezer between 0 and 5 degrees. This will keep your food fresh, but your fridge and freezer won’t need to work as hard to maintain the temperature.


Water
Hot water is the second-largest expense in powering most homes, according to the Energy Department. Cutting back on your hot water usage — in the shower, laundry and dishwasher — can make a sizable dent in your overall energy bill.

5. Take shorter showers: Trimming two minutes off your shower time can cut your water usage by five gallons.

6. Replace your showerhead: An efficient showerhead can reduce your water usage by 2,700 gallons per year. Look for one with the WaterSense label, which is certified to meet efficiency criteria set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

7. Don’t wash clothes in hot water: Stick to warm or cold water when you do laundry and cut your per-load energy usage by at least half.

8. Fix leaky faucets: That drip, drip, drip isn’t just annoying, it wastes gallons of water.

9. Adjust the temperature on your water heater: The default temperature setting on water heaters is typically 140 degrees. Lowering it to 120 degrees can reduce your water heating costs by up to 10%. Leaving town for a few days? Turn your water heater to the lowest setting to conserve energy usage.

10. Purchase energy-efficient appliances: If you’re in the market for a new washer, dishwasher or water heater, buy an energy-efficient model to yield long-term savings. A dishwasher with the Energy Star label is required to use 3.5 gallons of water or less per cycle, compared with the more than 10 gallons used by some older models. Prioritize appliances that run most often, like the fridge, HVAC system, water heater, dehumidifier, TV, washer and dryer.

11. Ask about discounted rates: Some utility providers offer cheaper rates during certain times of the day, making laundry and other energy-intensive chores 5% to 25% less expensive during off-peak times.

Power and Lighting
Keeping the lights and electronics on accounts for roughly 11% or more of a home’s energy usage.

12. Swap out your lightbulbs: Save $75 per year by swapping out the bulbs in your five most-used light fixtures with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs that bear the Energy Star label.

13. Install dimmer switches: Dimmers let you set the brightness in a room to suit your needs, setting the mood and saving electricity.

14. Use smart power strips: Some electronic gadgets never truly power off; instead, they sit in standby mode using a trickle of power that can add up over devices and time. These are usually — but not exclusively — items with a remote control, because the remote sensor needs power while waiting for your input. Plug these electronics into a smart power strip, which cuts off the current when the devices aren’t in use.

15. Do an energy audit: Utility providers will often conduct a home energy audit, sometimes for free, and can identify additional ways to reduce your energy usage.

The article, 15 Ways to Lower Your Energy Billoriginally appeared on nerdwallet.com

How to Make a Plan to Manage Online Grocery Costs

Ordering Groceries
I haven’t set foot in a grocery store in nearly four months.

With a 10-month-old baby to think about, my husband and I have kept trips to the store to a minimum out of an abundance of caution during the pandemic. We’re fortunate to have just about every grocery delivery service at our disposal — and we’ve taken advantage.

In between orders from Costco, Whole Foods, Imperfect Foods and more, I’ve noticed our virtual shopping habit is changing how we budget. We’re accounting for new grocery-related expenses. We’re also more deliberate about what we buy.

Here’s why online grocery shopping could affect how much you spend — and ways to keep your budget intact.

Markups
You could pay more online than in the store for the exact same item. That’s because some delivery services, or the retailers they partner with, inflate grocery prices to cover fulfillment costs.

On Costco’s website, I was met with the message “item prices are marked up higher than your local warehouse. Instacart uses the markup to pay for their delivery service.” The exact price difference wasn’t specified.

Same-day delivery service Shipt says its members can expect to pay about $5 more on a $35 order online than in the store. Plan that you will spend a few extra bucks every time you buy groceries online.

Extra Charges
At the grocery store, the price you see is typically the price you pay. But online, fees for delivery, service, alcohol, memberships and subscriptions could be tacked onto your bill. Extra charges could range from a couple dollars for a service fee to about a hundred dollars for a membership.

“You’re spending more money because it’s a service,” says Jennifer Weber, a certified financial planner in Lake Success, New York.

How you use that service can also affect the cost. Often, you’ll pay a premium for quicker or high-demand delivery times. Then, there are tips. Tipping, while optional, is a simple way to support the workers risking their health to provide you with an essential service. Many grocery services set a default tip, so make sure to pick the amount you prefer.

Substitutions
Items could be unexpectedly out-of-stock, incorrect or missing from your delivery. Certain services allow substitutions for unavailable inventory. However, that can come at a higher cost. When the conventional tomatoes I ordered sold out, I ended up with organic tomatoes for $1 more.

When using services that charge for pricier replacements, consider opting out of automatic substitutions or allocating a few extra dollars toward your grocery budget as a cushion. Inspect orders closely upon arrival as well and notify the company if you’re charged for forgotten or incorrect items.

Impulse Purchases
Getting your groceries while sitting in front of your screen isn’t all bad news for your wallet: 46% of consumers say they’ve made fewer impulse purchases since shifting to online grocery shopping in the spring, according to a survey from Magid, a business strategy and research company.

“Careful planning and buying only what you intend to is a little bit easier to do online,” says Steve Caine, a partner with the retail practice of Bain and Company, a management consulting firm. “You don't get influenced quite the same way as you do when you’re walking through a store.”

With no enticing candy displays or cleverly arranged shelves to stroll past, you might fill your cart with fewer items. Plus, Caine says shopping online allows you to better keep a “running total” of your purchase, while in the store, you usually don’t know until checkout.

Ways to Watch Your Budget
Online grocery shopping is here to stay for the foreseeable future. These strategies can reduce the strain on your budget.
 
  • Make a list. Check your fridge or pantry and jot down what you need for the week. “You can think ahead and say, ‘I want to spend $100 or $50.’ Then, you can do price comparisons for those items,” Weber says.

  • Compare grocery services. Try building a basket on a few different sites to see which offers the lowest price on items. Explore all the costs involved and look for coupons or promotions before checkout.

  • Be flexible. Choosing curbside pickup can help you skip delivery fees, tips and other charges. But if you opt for delivery, note that one-hour or same-day windows could be more expensive. Giving yourself time to plan and pushing it to next-day or two-day delivery can reduce the cost, Caine says.

The article, How to Make A Plan To Manage Online Grocery Costsoriginally appeared on nerdwallet.com

Coulee Bank Mortgage: 4 Ways to Accomplish Your Money Goals

Paying BillsWhether you’re planning to buy a new home, refinance your existing mortgage or stow away extra cash for retirement, having good financial habits in place can help.

Those habits should include managing your bills, budgeting, keeping an eye on your credit score and more.

Are you looking to achieve some financial goals or get better at handling your money?
These four tips could help you get there.
  • Automate your savings. You can set up savings deposits on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis. You might even be able to get a small portion of each paycheck deposited into your account automatically.
     
  • Pay all of your bills on time. If you can automate your bill payments too, do that. If not, you can set up reminders before each bill’s due date. Late payments could hurt your credit score considerably.
     
  • Download a budgeting app. There are a variety of finance apps, and they can help you keep your spending and saving on track. Some even come with free credit monitoring alerts.
     
  • Look for small ways to save. There are so many methods for saving. Maybe you’ll find success with coupons, cooking at home instead of eating out or turning off the lights and unplugging devices when they’re not in use. You’d be surprised how little changes can add up
Improving your finances doesn’t have to be complicated. If you make small adjustments to your spending and saving habits now, you could reap the benefits for the long haul.

Do you have more questions about financing your home? Get in touch to learn about refinancing, home equity loans and other options. Reach out to a Coulee Bank mortgage lender today for a personalized recommendation.

Coulee Investment Center: Surviving the Holiday Spending Season...Debt-Free

Holiday Shopping
















As the traditional giving season approaches, there is one important item to add to your to do list: Create a holiday budget. Before the gift shopping and wrapping begins, take control of your wallet through financial preparation. Remember, you can potentially avoid the credit card crunch and the dangerous pitfall of borrowing against your company's retirement savings plan or IRAs.
 
  • Start by determining the total amount of money that you want to budget for gifts. Carefully evaluate how much money your budget will allow for holiday spending. Be honest and be realistic. The idea is not to spend more than you plan for during the holiday season.

  • Next, make a list of people that you will be buying gifts for this year.

  • Write down ideas for each person on the gift buying list. Set an amount that you will spend for each person on the list, then estimate the cost of each gift idea. Create an alternative gift idea for each person if your first idea is too expensive.

  • After making the purchase, write down the exact cost of the gift, totaling your expenditures. Be sure to include the price of gift wrap and cards

  • Prioritize your holiday wish list and consider your plans in light of your budget. You may have to choose between gift-giving, entertaining, or travel. Families can decide together how much to spend for the holidays, including gifts, decorations, and food.

  • Take a radical step to hide your credit cards. For example, put your credit cards in the freezer.

  • Don't forget inexpensive gifts, such as themed baskets. An Italian gift basket can include a colander, spiral pasta, gourmet spaghetti sauce, a pasta spoon, and garlic bulbs.


Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or even the Winter Solstice, you may make a commitment to sharing holiday presents with family and friends, attending your place of worship, and giving to your favorite charity, without worrying about credit card bills or repayment of bank or 401(k) loans.

Required Attribution
Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by DST Systems, Inc. or its sources, neither DST Systems, Inc. nor its sources guarantees the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. In no event shall DST Systems, Inc. be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages in connection with subscriber's or others' use of the content. © 2018 DST Systems, Inc. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited, except by permission. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions.


This material was prepared by LPL Financial, LLC

Securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial (LPL), a registered investment advisor and broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC). Insurance products are offered through LPL or its licensed affiliates. Coulee Bank and/or Coulee Investment Center are not registered as a broker/dealer or investment advisor. Registered representatives of LPL offer products and services using Coulee Investment Center, and may also be employees of Coulee Bank. These products and services are being offered through LPL or its affiliates, which are separate entities from, and not affiliates of Coulee Bank or Coulee Investment Center. Securities and insurance offered through LPL or its affiliates are: 


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