I have found my fireplace to be an invaluable tool in my quest to stay frugal this winter. Now I live in north Georgia, where it's never all THAT cold, but it does get below freezing here and people in Georgia tend to go crazy at the first sign of a chill. My neighbor was just telling me yesterday that his last gas bill was $180. Mine was $72. The reason for this difference is that he keeps his heater set at 75 degrees and uses his fireplace to store books (seriously). I keep my heater set at 64 degrees and I use my fireplace if the outside temperature gets below 45. I also wear a sweater instead of turning on the heat and I drink a lot of hot tea.
Now my fireplace is the wood burning kind, so I have to factor in the cost of the wood in my savings. I usually buy 1 cord of wood every fall and it ran me $80 this year and that includes delivery. For anyone who doesn't know, a cord of wood is a HUGE amount. It's 4 feet tall and 8 feet wide and I would say about 20 inches deep. In Georgia I only have to use my heater from late October to early April, so about 5 months total. Last year my overall average monthly gas bill was $65. If you factor in the cost of the firewood spread out over 5 months, that makes the average monthly heating bill $81.($80 divided by 5 is $16 and I added that to my average monthly cost of $65)
The fireplace isn't just a valuable savings tool, it's a pleasant perk of the winter. It's nice to sit in front of it with my kids and drink hot chocolate. Sometimes the kids and I toast marshmallows in it and make smores.(actually...We do that a lot!:P) The fireplace also makes my house smell great...Like camping in the woods.
The low utilities in the winter help me save up for the summer, where my average electric bill is about $180. I still haven't figured out a way to make the savage heat less expensive.:P I know that up north, it gets so cold that the winter bills are the ones people have to save up and prepare for. They could do what I do except in the summer. Maybe don't run the air conditioner unless it gets above a certain temperature and use fans. Drink a tall, cold glass of lemonade, or iced tea. It's not just good for your savings account, it's good for the environment.