Winter is coming. Are you prepared?
Here, the temperature has been fluctuating significantly, so until I saw those first few snowflakes, I wasn’t convinced that winter was on its way. But now a chill has settled in and it can’t be ignored. The cold weather is here.
Winter can cause heating bills to skyrocket if you’re not careful. And there are other surprising ways that winter costs you money as well. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.
First off, make sure you’ve sealed off any ways that cold weather can use to invade your home. Check out your windows. Are they drafty? Can you feel a cool breeze? While buying awesome new energy saving windows would be great, that’s not really an option for most of us. My solution for my one leaky window was to use temporary caulk to caulk it shut. Not the ideal, but it’s worked pretty well, and I can still open the window if I need to use it as an emergency exit.
You can also buy window insulating kits, which are basically just a clear plastic that goes over your window to help insulate (hence the name). I’ve not used them in the past, but I’m thinking about trying it this year, particularly in my dining room where I have a number of windows.
Does your house have outdoor spigots? Do you know how to winterize them? You need to turn off the water to those spigots and then drain the water from them. This prevents freezing and burst pipes. If you can’t turn them off, my best suggestion is to do something to insulate those spigots. You can buy a little insulated bag that ties around it, but I’m sure you could create one out of some old mittens and some plastic bags. It’s still going to be better than nothing.
Do you have a car? Do you drive your car in the winter? Make sure that your fluids are topped off. And as I learned, make sure that you don’t let your gas tank get too low. My car wouldn’t start at one point last year because the gas was low and therefore the contaminants in the tank (water, mostly) froze and caused all sorts of issues. Lesson learned – since my car lives outside and not in a garage, I will try to make sure I always have a half of tank of gas.
Also, after a bad storm, does your city put salt on the roads? You want to run your car through a carwash when the storm remnants have cleared. The salt can cause corrosion to your car. Plus it’s just nice to have a clean car. Can you do this yourself? Sure, if you want to hand wash your car in the winter.
Do you have supplies on hand in case a bad storm keeps you in your home for a number of days? It’s never a bad idea to have a bit of bottled water stored away as well as some food that you can eat without cooking in case of a power outage. If you have a gas stove, you will likely still be able to use it if the power is out, so make sure you have a lighter or matches handy.
Do you have a fireplace? Fireplaces aren’t exactly the best ways to heat a home, but if the power is out and you have no other way to heat the home, sitting in front of a roaring fire is a good way to defrost your toes. Make sure you have a bit of well seasoned firewood on hand. It’s cheaper if you buy more, and going in with your neighbors on a few cords of wood is a good way to go. This fall, I got half a cord of wood from a group order and it will last me quite some time.
Before the first big storm of the year, make sure that you have a shovel and rock salt (if you want it). The last thing you want to do on the day before a storm is go to the store and try to find a shovel. Prices can get raised and fights can break out. Better safe than sorry.
The biggest money saving tip that I can offer for winter is to stay safe. Hospital bills are expensive. Be careful as you shovel. Watch out for invisible patches of ice. Drive carefully. Keep yourself safe and healthy.
And turn down that thermostat! You don’t need to be wearing shorts in December!
Megan is a 30-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.