Cut your gas bills

On the Cheap

Now's the time to look for savings on heating bills. On the Cheap came across several suggestions from Virginia Natural Gas for strategies to shave dollars off your gas bill. Top on the VNG list is a free programmable thermostat, which it promises can save up to $180 per year. The deadline for the application is Dec. 31 and it's promised to arrive within eight weeks.

Another savings that it encourages consumers to take advantage of — also before Dec. 31 — is to get a check-up of your heating system with a $25 rebate.

There's also a free weatherization program for low-income households. Those with an income at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty level qualify for the program. The program addresses setting up an energy savings "action plan," as well as offering help with necessary repairs or equipment replacement. Hampton and Southside residents can call the Southeastern Tidewater Opportunity Project at 858-1397 and Peninsula residents the Williamsburg James City County Community Action Network at 229-9389. The general public can also get information at a series of weatherization programs held at area hardware stores. The details, application forms and schedule are available online at www.virginianatural or call customer service, toll-free, at 866-229-3578., a Web site that helps homeowners determine if they are paying a fair price for home heating, has launched an iPhone application. The application allows consumers to compare their home heating prices for oil and propane to Department of Energy state averages as well as to what other consumers in the local area are paying. The application is available for download in the Apple iTunes store,

Follow-upsHere are a couple of responses from readers to recent columns. Ginny Harrell wrote in reaction to the coffee-saving tip of adding fresh coffee to one-day-old grounds. She recalls how, when working on Navy shore duty near the Pentagon 30 years ago, she passed along a similar tip to her co-workers. She thought she was doing them a favor as the price of coffee had gone up to "about $7 for a 3-pound can, even at the commissary."

She felt lucky to get away with her life after her colleagues found the taste unpalatable. "I'm really glad we weren't aboard ship. I think they would have made me walk the plank. Wow, talk about coffee purists!" she says.

"Don't do it" was the gist of her note, at least if you're serving it to "old salts, who when asked directions, would point with their index finger crooked, as if they had a coffee mug in their hand."

In case you missed Saturday's Feedback, there were a couple of suggestions on how to re-use plastic bags from the store and those that your newspaper is delivered in. Brian from Hampton uses store bags for his bathroom and kitchen trash cans, saving a tidy sum on buying liners for them. He also has been known to tape them over his feet when it's wet out. As to the newspaper bags, he finds them clean enough to wrap his lunch sandwiches in or to use as freezer bags for his excess garden produce. And David Scherer in Williamsburg passes both the bags and the old newspapers on to the local animal shelter for their use.

News to Use How cheap — or thrifty — can you be? On the Cheap welcomes readers' tips on how to stretch a dollar or save a nickel. Send to or mail to Prue Salasky, Daily Press, 7505 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23607. To find other tips, go to and follow onthecheap, or join in the conversation at and click on On the Cheap. For previous columns, go to

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