Leaving your home during the holidays? Follow these tips to keep it safe and save a few bucks on bills while you’re gone.

1. Put mail on hold
An overstuffed mailbox or a pile of newspapers at the bottom of your driveway can be an invitation to thieves. Not only is it a sign that no one’s home, identity thieves can find all sorts of goodies while sorting through unattended mail. Go to usps.com to have the US Postal Service hold your mail, and also check on your options for holding newspaper delivery.

2. Put lights on a timer
It makes it appear that someone is home. If you can, switch your exterior lights to the “motion-activated” setting.

3. Check batteries
Make sure the batteries are fresh in your smoke alarms and that they function.

4. Remove valuables
Hiding your jewelry is always an option, but when you’re gone for several days, thieves have more time to hunt through the house. If you can, place jewelry and important documents in a safety deposit box or home safe.

5. Grab your spare key
Bring inside any keys that are hidden outside. You can give one to a neighbor along with your contact information where you'll be, just in case there's an emergency.

7. Unplug
Your electronics will still suck energy while you’re gone. Unplug the biggies, like your TV and computer.

8. Don't advertise your trip online
At least until you return, when it’s safe to make your Facebook friends jealous with photos from your holiday beach vacation. Don’t post the dates when you’re leaving your house vacant.

9. Switch your water heater to “vacation” mode
It won’t turn off completely, but it will still save energy.

10. Lower your thermostat
Keep it warm enough to prevent the pipes – and the goldfish – from freezing. Your energy company can recommend a temperature that’s appropriate for your climate.

11. Deodorize the sink
To avoid returning to a kitchen disposal that belches up the stench of your pre-vacation dinner, run it with a half-cup of vinegar, or lemon peels and ice cubes, before you leave. To keep things smelling fresh, it’s also a good idea to throw out any food that will go bad while you’re gone and make sure to take out any trash.

12.  Bleach the bowl
Dump half a cup of chlorine bleach into your toilet bowl to prevent mineral stains from developing.

Searching for a home you’ll hate to leave alone? Find a local RE/MAX agent who can help you in your search.