How to make sure your holiday lights don’t burn your budget

Brian Acton


Brian Acton

Brian Acton

Contributing Writer

Brian Acton is a contributing writer at Policygenius who covers personal finance, insurance, and other topics.

Published December 7, 2018|3 min read

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If you’re famous around the neighborhood for your holiday lights display, you know that lighting up the block for the holiday season isn’t easy. You have to get your lights out of storage, untangle them and hang them up.

The beauty of the lights at night may be worth the struggle, but you may also be faced with an unforeseen cost come January in the form of a surging power bill. But epic holiday lights don’t have to lead to an epic power bill. Using some money saving tips, you can keep your lighting costs from outshining your holiday spirit.

Here’s how to make sure your holiday lights don’t burn a hole in your your budget. (Hint: in order to figure out how your electricity bill fits into your budget, you have to have a budget. If you don't have one, here's a spreadsheet to get you started.)

1. Switch to LED lighting ...

LED lights may cost more up front, but they use less energy, saving you money in the long run. Plus, they are safer than incandescent bulbs when it comes to fire risks.

“LED lights are made with epoxy covering rather than glass, so they are less likely to break. Plus, they use less energy than incandescent lights and therefore are cooler to the touch,” said Josh McCormick, vice president of operations at Mr. Electric.

2. ... or solar

Plugging your outdoor lights into an outlet will spike your power usage, thus raising your electricity bill. As an alternative, you can use solar-powered light strings. Solar lights connect to small panels that soak up the sun’s energy during the day and can keep your lights on, free of charge, for hours.

3. Space them out

Spacing your lights out, instead of clumping them too close together, will make your existing light strands go farther and save you energy. Make sure your lights are properly spaced out to get better usage and a nice aesthetic effect.

4. Use timers

You should always shut your lights off before leaving your home or going to bed — otherwise, they’ll be draining power late into the night. Timers make the process of turning off your lights automatic, so you’ll never forget.

“It’s better not to go overboard with if you don’t mean to disturb your neighbours’ sleep. A proper solution ... is opting for Christmas lights on timers,” said Deemer Cass, a Christmas trees and decorations expert at Fantastic Gardeners.

5. Double check the wiring & bulbs

Before plugging in your lights, make sure to inspect them for burnt out bulbs and damaged wiring. Faulty bulbs or wiring can actually be dangerous, leading to accidents or property damage — which may not be covered by your homeowners insurance. Make sure to check your policy, or shop around for a better deal (Policygenius can help you with this).

“Whether the lights are new or old, before plugging them in inspect for any fray wiring, as this can be a fire and shock hazard,” said McCormick.

6. Never overload extension cords & outlets

Overloaded extension cords and outlets are also a fire hazard, and can lead to property damage or physical injury. Cass said plugging in more than three sets of lights into one extension cord may lead to overheating, and fire.

“For a better awareness, check the wattage of your property and compare it to the total wattage of your Christmas light sets,” she said.

7. Prepare for next year by getting your lights after the holidays

Big box retailers slash prices for holiday-related products in the new year, including gift wrapping, ornaments and holiday decorations. If you want to get a head start saving on lights for the next holiday season, wait to buy your lights until after the holidays. Make sure to shop around — physical stores may offer better deals as they attempt to unload inventory.

The holidays are expensive. Luckily, we’ve got a list of ways to make this season more affordable.

Image: anandaBGD