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Consumers could be facing sticker shock with gas and electric bills this winter

Consumer reporter John Matarese shows us some things you can do right now so you don't waste your money.

Brace yourself – this could be an expensive winter when it comes to your utility bills. Even if you don't heat with natural gas, you could soon be facing sticker shock.

Jim Mehne watches his thermostat settings carefully. "Normally, it's set at 62," he said.

But he just learned that his budget billing rate – what he pays for utilities every month – is jumping from $128 to $160.

"$31 and 60 cents! Works out to about $360 bucks a year," he said.

Jim says this will take a bite out of next year's budget.

“Right now with the way income is and everything else in the world, everything going up, its going to make it harder to pay the other bills," he explained.

It's typical for gas and electric rates to go up in the winter, because it’s all based on weather and demand.

But this year a strange thing has happened: natural gas prices have been going up all year long!

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says if you heat with gas, expect to spend 30 percent more this winter than last.

But electric rates are up too, due to last winter's Texas storms and higher electric generating costs.

What can you do?

Sally Thelen, of Duke Energy, says you'll save as much as 3 percent on your bill for every degree you turn down your thermostat. And she says check those windows and doors for leaks.

"Weather stripping around doors, making sure you have a tight seal, if you need to add caulk around windows. Really just do things to keep the heat in."

Homeowners like Jim are hoping for a mild winter because rising prices on gas, groceries, and now utilities, are starting to take a toll.

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