Did the early arrival of winter catch you off guard? Even if you're still digging your way out of your home, there are a bunch of money- and life-saving things you can do around your home before the next big storm passes through.

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

  • 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.
  • 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. Make an appointment, since heating companies can get swamped with winter work.
  • Check fireplaces for soot or creosote buildup. 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.
  • Make sure you have a snow shovel on hand, and stock up on 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.

Consider printing out this checklist and perhaps even forward it to friends, with the handy "Email this page" link near the upper-right corner of the page. Then once you're able, get yourself to Home Depot, Lowe's, or your local hardware store, and buy what you need to get your house ready for winter Round 2. These stores also offer tutorials on improving your home -- perhaps you can learn to insulate your own attic.

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This article originally ran in October 2004. It has been updated by Dayana Yochim for modern-day winters. The Fool has a disclosure policy.