Five ways to squirrel away cash this winter


1. HEATING

If you have a log burner, make sure your wood is dry. Don't overload your fire with too many logs and turn the damper down overnight so the fire can be easily restarted in the morning. With electric heating, don't crank up the heat for too long - add another layer of clothing and warm up with a hot drink. Keep doors closed to rooms you don't use often and it's worth getting your home insulated if it's not already - money spent now could pay off in winters to come. Close the curtains early to conserve the warmth of the sun on fine days.

2. IN THE KITCHEN

Winter is often the time we turn to comfort food to warm us up. Soups, stews, casseroles and pasta bakes are easy ways to cut costs and keep the family happy. Buy cheaper cuts of meat and use them in stews or casseroles. Stretch the casseroles by throwing in a handful or two of dried lentils. They dissolve into the sauce and no one will know they're there. Supermarkets and bakeries sometimes reduce yesterday's wares so go shopping early in the morning or later at night and look out for "reduced to clear" stickers. Shop around for well-priced winter vegetables such as potatoes, kumara, cabbage and pumpkin. Farmers' markets and green grocers shouldn't be overlooked.

Buy in bulk and make big batches of soup. It freezes well and can be a good reprieve after a long day at work.

3. AROUND THE HOUSE

Switch off. Unplug items that aren't in use. Electronic items on standby can increase your bill over the course of a year.

Limit the amount of time you use the clothes drier. Invest in a good clothes rack and dry your clothes inside on rainy days or on the line on fine days - they will still dry, just remember to get them in well before the sun goes down and the damp sets in. For those who hate ironing, make sure you hang your clothes up straight away in a well-ventilated wardrobe. Most of the creases from washing will drop out and you'll find you can cut down on ironing too. Hot water can be a big winter expense especially on those crisp, frosty mornings. Try to limit the amount of time the kids are in the shower: A good rule of thumb is "soap over, rinse off and get out". Or you can make a game of it and time them with a kitchen timer - the quickest child in the shower gets a small reward.

4. ON THE ROAD

Winterise your car for better fuel efficiency. As well as antifreeze for the radiator, put de-icer in your windshield wiper solvent and you should reduce the time you leave the car running before driving. Proper inflation of your tires is also important. Make sure your car is well tuned and serviced and running as efficiently as possible.

Car pool. Get together with mums and dads who live in the same area as you and work out a roster for school drop offs and pick ups - your wallet will thank you.

Supermarket vouchers. Save those fuel dockets, every cent helps, particularly when it doesn't look like the cost of petrol will be going down any time soon.

Do you really need to take the car? Shop for the week or the fortnight, and don't make extra trips to the dairy or the supermarket. Your health will benefit if you walk to more places rather than take the car.

5. IN THE WARDROBE

Winter clothes can be expensive. Some department stores reduce their winter stock starting Queen's Birthday weekend, so keep an eye out for sales. Don't be a fashion victim - look for things that can be used for winters to come. Invest in a good woollen jacket in a classic cut; the initial outlay might hurt a bit, but they will always be in style and will last for a long time. When winter is over, get it dry-cleaned and keep it in the back of the wardrobe ready for next year. You can change the look by buying inexpensive hats, scarves and gloves in different colours.

Fabrics such as polypropylene, merino and other woollens are great insulators so layer up and you will be toasty warm.

There are some fantastic second-hand shops around selling clean, neat clothes so don't turn your nose up at other people's hand-me-downs - you can bag some great bargains.

- Hamilton News

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