How to Lower Your Utility Bills in Extreme Weather

Financial Advice By: Carmen Wong Ulrich

Q: All of these winter storms have really made my utility bills skyrocket, as I’ve had to really turn-up the heat to try to keep my house warm from the elements outside.  While I know it’s been cold out, my bills have been almost double what I would usually pay each month during the winter and that is something that I definitely did not budget for.  Is there some trick of the trade I can use in the future to lower these bills?

CWU:  This winter has sent much of the country into its own ‘vortex’ of Yeti-sized heating bills.  The good news is that there are a couple of great ways to bring down your utility bills not only this time of year, but also in the summer when you’ll want to cool things down inside.  First, let’s start with the concrete, material things you can do, even on your own, to save money.  Do you have the right sealants on your windows and doors?  Check out this great guide on the very useful site LifeHacker about weather-stripping and insulation.

And what about that thermostat?  By using a programmable thermostat, your heating and cooling systems can do their jobs only when it’s most important—when you’re at home and when you’re sleeping.  The government’s website Energy.gov has a great guide to how they work and what you should look for when buying one.  They estimate if you go for 10 to 15 degree lower settings when you’re at work and sleeping, you can save up to 20% on your heating bills. This purchase definitely falls under the umbrella of spending-money-to-save-money (down the road, for years!).

And look for other ways to make room for larger monthly heating and cooling bills, such as lowering your electricity bill by unplugging power strips and cords not in use—just because the TV isn’t on doesn’t mean it’s not ‘eating’ juice!  Space heaters and electric blankets can make this bill jump too, but also keep in mind that they can be dangerous.  Be safe when you’re trying to stay warm.

Of course, there’s always my father’s motto:  “Put on a sweater!”  Thanks, Dad, I’m on my third!

 

Carmen Wong Ulrich is a personal finance expert and author of “The Real Cost of Living.”

The Success Diaries: Kathy Wilson

Dear 12-Year-Old Kathy,

It is with great relief that I get to say to you that all of your dreams will come true.  Your work will be featured in magazines, television, and film.  Your clothing will be worn by celebrities at major red carpet events.  You will even be featured on a new type of television genre called a “reality show” where you will get to experience stress on a whole new level.  You will have successes that you did not even imagine could happen.  You will learn that balance is the key to a happy life.  You will also learn what makes you happy evolves and changes as you evolve and change.

All of the lessons you learn at each workplace will be useful to you later as you embark on your own business.  Never underestimate the power of hard work.  Always remember that job security is based on being someone that people need.  It is important to understand that doing what you love is fundamental to your happiness; however, loving where you work is just as important.

Traveling overseas is extremely significant to who you will become as an adult.  Seeing how people live all over the world is what inspires you to become the best version of yourself possible.  Seeing how misunderstandings can occur and how to resolve them diplomatically becomes a great asset. Also, being open-minded and a willingness to learn about another culture helps you build great business relationships.  By the time you are 35, you will have lived in Japan for three years and traveled to China, Vietnam, Thailand, Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Canada, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic for inspiration.

The best lessons come from the most difficult experiences.  Whenever you find yourself in a tough situation that seems to be too much to handle, try to find comfort in knowing that it is these experiences that will be the ones you will learn the most from.  The challenges you overcome will mark significant moments that forced you to become stronger than you knew you was possible.

Do what you want to do, not what you think others think you should do.  The things that you think will make your 12 year old self happy will change.  The idea that you will never get married or have kids, because you want to be a career woman, will change.  You will learn that you can have more than one identity at a time.  You will also learn that success means more than making a ton of money.  Thankfully,  you will learn that early enough to enjoy what life has to offer outside of professional glory.

Lastly, follow your gut.  When you get a bad feeling about something or someone, do not ignore it.

Everything is going to be better than you dreamed of, so enjoy every moment.

Sending you love, courage, and wisdom!

Kathy Wilson

Kathy Wilson is a women’s and men’s custom and contemporary fashion designer.  She founded her namesake line in 2009 after dressing Stevie Wonder for the 2009 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.  She was profiled on Season 2 of the critically acclaimed series, “All On The Line With Joe Zee” for Sundance channel in December 2011.  Kathy’s celebrity clients also include Michelle Pfeiffer, Sophia Bush, Chris Jacobs, Diplo, Masi Oka, and Adam Lambert.  In 2011, Kathy was recognized as an emerging Asian American fashion designer by the Asia Society.  Check out her designs at KathyWilson.com!

 

 

 

Book Shelf: Dress for Success’ “Threads”

We usually reserve the Dress for Success Blog to tout the accomplishments, advice and stories of others, but we are so incredibly proud about our latest project that we just would shout it from the mountain tops if, you know, there were mountain tops in New York City!  We are amazed every day by the stories of our women and this book brings those stories to life, in their very own words.  So without further adieu, please find our synopsis on our book of the month, Threads

The definition of a thread is a fine cord spun out to considerable length, which is fitting for Dress for Success as our organization has expanded its services to every corner of the globe, now including 130 affiliates in 16 countries. 

Though the numerous Dress for Success locations may be separated by distance, there is no length that could lessen the bond between the women that our organization serves.  There is no measurement that could erase the commonalities that we hear in each of our women’s stories when they walk through the doors of Dress for Success.

As Dress for Success has grown over the passed 16 years, we have heard over 700,000 of these stories and began to realize that they are more than just words.  These stories are the experiences, actions and emotions that embody every woman around the world.  

This past July, women from over 60 Dress for Success affiliates around the world gathered in Miami, Florida, for our ninth annual Success Summit, a three-day leadership conference designed for the women of our Professional Women’s Group.  As each woman descended upon the city, their stories converged, their shared threads forming a bond.  Boston became connected to Brisbane, Wellington to Wichita, Michigan to Miami, Ottawa to Oregon.  Individual threads no longer, these women now realized they were part of a bigger story and that they had a greater purpose.

It is from this weekend that Threads was created.  This coffee table book is the first endeavor of its kind by Dress for Success Worldwide and features the firsthand success journeys of 20 women from around the world.  Inspiring original imagery from world-renowned photographer Danielle Levitt provides a pictorial peek into the personality of each woman, complementing each of their personal threads while highlighting the bonds between them.

Dress for Success curated the stories of these particular 20 confident and courageous women because they came to us in a time of need, but have transformed into leaders in the workforce, as well as within their families and their communities.  They are perseverance personified.  Combined, their threads form a fabric of support, of women helping women, of shared challenges and achievements.  

Threads retails for $40. Email katie@dressforsuccess.org to find out more information or to purchase a copy of Threads for yourself!

Dear DFS: How Do I Find a Mentor?

Dear DFS, 

I have only been out of work for a few weeks now, but I don’t know how long this period of unemployment will last and I’m scared that I will lose my way if I stay out of work for too long.  Every now and then, I’ll hear the word “mentor” mentioned and I’m thinking that, right about now, I could really use one of those!  A little extra help in staying focused never hurts, right?  But how do I know who will make a good mentor?  And once I’ve found someone that I think would be a good one, how to I ask them?  I know that everyone is busy with their own schedules, so I don’t want to impose on anyone, but I would like someone who’s my go-to for professional advice! 

Focused and fearless, 

Miranda

Augusta, GA

 

Dear Miranda,

What a great question and way to approach, not just your job search, but your work life as well. A mentor is an important part of your employment toolbox for a number of reasons. First, they can be a great mirror for you to glimpse a reflection of yourself in. It’s helpful to have someone who can challenge your personal self doubt because, let’s face it, we all question our abilities at times. It’s also great to have someone who can be a cheerleader and spokesperson for you when they hear about opportunities.

The advice I give about mentors is to make sure it is someone you both like and respect. Because, simply put, you are more likely to take their advice if you like and respect them. Make sure that others like and respect them, too. If they are going to advocate for you, then you want other people to trust them just as much as you do.

They should be in a higher position than the one you are in or that you want to be in. That way they can provide you with helpful tips along the way. They don’t have to be in your field of work, but it helps if they are. Someone who knows your line of work can offer great tips on trends in the field, opportunities that you might be qualified for and how to frame your cover letter or resume so that you are getting real consideration.

Have you made any connections at your former place of employment? Have you attended conferences and made connections, or do you have friends who you used to work with who have moved on to higher positions? Also, scope out some of the people at activities that you regularly attend like church, your weekly yoga class or PTA meetings.  These are some sources for good mentors. Sometimes what you’ve been looking for as been right there along!

In terms of asking—just do it!  Everyone loves a nice compliment and asking someone to be your mentor is a top-ranking nicety.  By asking someone to be your mentor, you are saying that you trust them with your career and, therefore, your livelihood.  Telling someone you respect their work and would love for them to be your mentor will usually get a positive response, but it is important to consider the time of the person you are asking.

The best way to approach this is to be organized about what you need from them. If you want someone to give you specific feedback about your resume or cover letter, or to conduct a mock interview with you, tell them that. If you want someone to consult with about your job search in general, tell them that when you are asking them to mentor you. Remember that if it is not working for you, there is no rule against you finding another mentor. You need to find the right fit for you. A really good mentor can be an invaluable tool and can help you stay grounded during your job search. You are asking all the right questions, so I know you will find the perfect match!

Best wishes,

Harriet Williams

Executive Director

Dress for Success Burlington

(Photo by Steve Knight Photography)

Spice Up That Winter Wardrobe!

Spring is just around the corner, but it looks like Jack Frost isn’t going to let us off easy in the meantime.  If you’re like us, then you’re not just tired of the low temps, you’re also tired of dressing for them.  But have no fear because we’ve come up with a great solution to spruce up your winter wears that will also allow you to transition into spring in style!

And just how do we propose to do that?  With scarves, ladies!  With scarves!

We always carefully choose our necklace, our earrings and rings, but then we throw on the same old scarf day after day before braving the cold, icy winter world. It’s time to change our accessorizing ways and give this overlooked adornment the attention that it deserves.

We have scoured the websites of some of our favorite retailers and would like to share with you our most favorite frocks that we found!  Wear them over your coat when you’re outside to protect your delicate skin from the elements or sport these lightweight neck wraps around the office to give your professional look a bit of pizzazz!  And the best part is that they’re all $25 or less!

 

Can’t decide between a scarf and a necklace? Now you can have both with this all-in-one accessory from dressbarn!

 

 

 

 

Channel that spring sunshine with this yellow scarf from Walmart— the perfect complement to those days when you have to pull out the black pantsuit!

 

 

 

 

The colors of this Green Fractal Abstract Scarf are reminiscent of a peacock and will have you receiving maximum style points in the office!

 

 

 

 

 

Loop on some shine in this super-fun, metallic infinity scarf from JCPenney.