Think of the December holiday season, and you’re likely to think of something shining brightly – often, something electric.

Using more electricity is a natural part of the holiday season. Family and friends come to stay, and we cook for them. The weather gets colder, so we turn up the heat. We decorate our homes with festive lights.

Fortunately, there are ways to get through the holiday season without feeling a strain on your energy bills. For instance, low-cost, energy-saving tips and practices can help balance out your energy use around this time of year.

Switching decorations and other lighting to efficient, long-lasting LED lights is one smart step. Cooking in slow cookers or microwaves instead of the oven is another. Weatherizing your home or apartment by sealing cracks around doors or windows is a third.

Another smart option to consider is budget billing. This is a program that sets up a consistent, predictable monthly payment for you, based on your average electric use over the past year.

Budget billing smooths out seasonal peaks, so you know how much you’ll pay each month – and months with higher energy use won’t bring a spike to your bill. (The monthly payment is periodically adjusted or “trued up” to reflect over- or under-payment.)

If you find that holiday energy use is causing you serious heartburn, there are customer assistance programs that can help. Signing up is easy, and can be done online in many cases. So if you’re on a tight budget, keep these options in mind:

OnTrack is a reduced payment plan with debt forgiveness, offered to customers meeting income guidelines.

WRAP is a home weatherization program in which your home is surveyed and energy-saving efficiency measures are installed for free. Again, participants must meet income guidelines, and renters must have their landlord’s permission.

Operation HELP is a fuel fund that helps income-eligible customers in need pay their energy bills. This program – funded by PPL Electric Utilities, its employees, retirees and customers – has helped more than 86,000 families since 1983.

The CARES program (Customer Assistance and Referral Services) is offered to customers who are experiencing a temporary hardship that will affect their ability to make their regular electric bill payment by the due date. Customers can receive energy conservation tips and referrals to other community programs for possible assistance with immediate hardships.

LIHEAP (Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program) is a federal program, usually open from November through April, that provides grants to help income-eligible customers pay heating bills.

To learn more about any of these programs, visit www.pplelectric.com/billhelp or call 1-800-DIAL-PPL (342-5775). Again, they’re there to help, and if you’re concerned about your bill, one of these programs could be just the thing to make your holidays brighter and your season memorable for all the best reasons.

Happy holidays!