Summer can be a high-cost season with family vacations, more outdoor activities to do, and summer parties to attend, but winter can also be a high cost season for other reasons.
Winter is when many expenses suddenly appear that were not present during the warm summer months. Some expenses are unavoidable, while others can be overcome with detailed budget building and financial planning and saving.
Reasons why winter can be a HUGE budget-breaker:
1. Winterizing a home –
Every home needs to be winterized before the cold weather starts. It is often necessary to hire professionals to repair gutters, replace insulation, and inspect the furnace or boiler. This can create unexpected costs that affect the budget for months to come.
2. Increased utility bills –
Staying comfortable during cold winter days means the family must run the heating system regularly. This can increase the cost of electricity or fuel for the home. The shorter winter days will also mean increased power bills because the lights in the home must be used more often.
3. Holiday spending –
The winter holiday season is a time when families must give gifts to loved ones or to service professionals like teachers, the mailman, or your hairstylist. The cost of gifts is not always included in the budget for the winter months. Excessive holiday spending on gifts can break any budget.
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4. Winter injuries –
Ice and snow on the ground make injuries during the winter more likely. Simple slips and falls can result in sprained ankles or even broken bones. This will increase medical bills during the winter if the family is not careful. You also may need to purchase rock salt for driveways and walkways to help keep them ice-free.
5. Car repairs and maintenance –
Cold weather has a negative effect on cars. Tires can wear down quickly, or you could have problems with the transmission. Frozen fuel lines can cause problems with the engine. Car repair and maintenance costs can ruin a budget during the winter.
6. Winter wardrobe costs –
Many families need to buy new coats, boots, and sweaters for the winter. These necessary expenses will keep everyone comfortable and warm. Families that do not anticipate winter wardrobe costs will see budget problems when the season starts, and it begins to get colder outside.
7. Snow removal –
Lawns, driveways, and sidewalks need to be maintained during the winter. Most people do not have the time to remove large amounts of snow. Something that can break a budget is paying for professional snow removal throughout the season.
8. Property damage from ice and snow –
Ice can form in gutters and punch holes in the roof leading to water damage. Falling ice can break windows. Heavy snow can bring down trees, power lines, and branches. The cost of property repairs can create a financial burden on the family during the winter months.
9. Seasonal income fluctuations –
Some people have lower incomes during the winter because of unpaid holidays or lower sales volumes before and after the holidays. Budgets that do not account for the reduced seasonal income will be unbalanced. This can make it harder to save or pay bills during winter.
10. Travel expenses –
Many families travel during the winter to celebrate holidays or visit loved ones. The cost of gas and airfare is very high during the winter. Holiday travel costs can break a budget. It’s best to book travel plans early and use saving or discount websites to find the best deals.
Here are a few ways you can save more in winter:
Out with the old & in with the new…
- Install a programmable thermostat that allows you to adjust the temperature when you’re not home. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat at 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer, then (depending on the season) lowering it or raising it while you’re sleeping or not at home. For each degree you lower or raise the temperature for an eight-hour time period, you can save 1% on your utility bills.
- When was the last time you changed the air filter on your furnace and/or air conditioner? Replacing the filter as recommended (every 2 to 3 months) will help the unit run more efficiently.
- Consider getting rid of that old basement refrigerator. Replacing an old refrigerator can reduce energy costs. New refrigerators with the energy star rating are 20% to 40% more efficient than refrigerators purchased in 2001 or before. Also, removing that extra fridge can save around $50 to $150 a year in utility bills.
Let it flow, let it flow…
Water is a large part of your energy bill, and there are many ways to enjoy a warm shower while saving money:
- Only washing FULL loads of clothes in cold water will help save energy.
- The dishwasher can help save money too. The heat drying setting on your dishwasher uses a lot of energy, try skipping the heated dry cycle and see how much money you could save each year.
- Check the temperature of your hot water heater. Lower it to 130° to reduce energy costs can save you money every year.
- Changing your shower head and faucets to a low-flow version will cut costs. There are new options that help maintain water pressure.
Be your own handyman…
- Check your whole house for any possible drafts. Caulk windows and door frames to make sure they are airtight.
- Cushion your attic. This will save you around 25-30%, and the average $300 investment will pay off in 3-5 years.
- Contact a professional to give your heating system a tune-up! The average cost is $75-$100 and could save you up to 10%. You will see a quick return on your investment in one heating season.
Lend me your ear…
- You can ask your utility company to run an energy audit on your home to find out more ways to save energy.
- Consider using a budget plan, offered through your utility company, to pay your bills. This will help spread out the cost over the year, instead of paying the seasonal spikes.
Wintertime is right around the corner, and lower temperatures are creeping up on us. It’s time to think about using the energy in our homes more resourcefully in the colder winter months. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, more than half of the energy used in a home goes to heating and/or cooling it. But fear not, because there are some ways to reduce your energy costs and increase your savings. Your budget can thank us later!