The days are getting colder and shorter. You can still put off that holiday shopping, but there are a bunch of things you need to do around your home fairly soon, things that can save you money -- and even your life.

Here's a handy to-do list, adapted from The Detroit News and Better Homes & Gardens:

  • Get to your gutters. Inspect and clean gutters and downspouts. Fail to do so and you may end up with gallons of water seeping into your home. Ick.

  • Seal gaps and cracks around windows and doors with weather-stripping and caulk. Gaps in caulk and weather-stripping can account for a 10% of your heating bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

  • Get on top of roof problems. Inspect your roof for damaged or curled shingles, corroded flashing, or leaky vents. Fail to do this and you may end up with chunks of wet ceiling dropping on your head. Yuck. Signs of roof trouble include loose shingles in your yard, granules in your gutter, and worn or torn shingles or flashing.

  • Repair damaged sidewalks, driveways, and steps.

  • Drain and winterize outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems.

  • Clean or replace dirty furnace filters. In fact, inspect your entire furnace. This is a good task for a heating professional. Now (or summer) is the best time for this, before your heating company gets swamped with winter work.

  • Check fireplaces for soot or creosote build-up. Consider calling in a recommended local chimney sweep. Ignore your chimney and you may end up with a fire in your house -- and not in the fireplace. Inspect wood-burning stoves, too.

  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide monitors, inspect (or install) fire extinguishers, review fire escape plans, and rid your home of old newspapers and other fire hazards.

  • If you have a snow thrower, make sure it's still working, and prepare to put away the lawnmower. Make sure you have a snow shovel on hand and anything you might need to melt ice at home or on the road.

  • Consider installing insulation in your attic to get rid of drafts and save big bucks on heating.

One more tip, if your home is heated by oil, is to see whether you can lock in a price for oil for the winter. If oil prices continue to rise, as they well may, you'll save some money.

Consider printing out this checklist and perhaps even forward it to friends (via the handy "Email this page" link near the upper-right corner of the page). Then get yourself to Home Depot (NYSE:HD), Lowe's (NYSE:LOW), or your local hardware store, and buy what you need to get your house ready for winter. These stores also offer tutorials on improving your home -- perhaps you can learn to insulate your own attic.

Learn more about buying, selling, and maintaining a home in our Home Center, which also features special mortgage rates. Also, visit our Buying or Selling a Home and Building/Maintaining a Home discussion boards to get some great insights and tips from fellow Fools.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Home Depot.