Winter set in fast and hard this year, with the last few weeks yielding particularly harsh conditions throughout most of the East Coast, Northwest, and even the balmy South. Many states are reaching record sub-zero temperatures and experiencing heavy snowfalls.
These conditions are blamed on a system of Arctic air from the north that’s known as the Polar Vortex. If you’re a Weather Channel junkie, all of this is extremely interesting and important to you — but for the average person, all you know is that it’s cold. Really cold. And it’s costing you.
Besides ensuring your pantry is well-stocked, make sure your budget isn’t suffering due to the extra cost of electricity, snow removal, and vehicle maintenance.
Here’s how to save on some common winter budget-busters:
How to Save on Heat and Fuel
Heating your home through a particularly cold winter means you’ll burn through propane, natural gas, wood, and other heating elements faster. Although you’ll scarcely find any direct savings from your fuel company, there are many little things you can do to make your heating fuel go as far as possible.
- Have your home insulated, and use plastic wrap and caulk to block air holes and drafty windows.
- Maintain the efficiency of your heating appliances by changing your furnace filter every few months and cleaning your furnace, chimney, or wood stove every year or two.
- Use a programmable thermostat to keep the temperature comfortable while you’re home, and use less heat at night and when you’re away. This also saves you from having to manually adjust the heat (or forgetting to).
- Layer up and drink hot liquids. The warmer you feel, the lower you can set your thermostat. Even lowering it a few degrees can have a huge impact on your heating bill.
- Keep the air moist with a humidifier. Dry air doesn’t hold heat as well, not to mention that moist air naturally feels warmer.
- Open curtains during the day when sunlight can help warm your home (think greenhouse effect). Close curtains and blinds after the sun goes down and when you’re not home. Use thermal curtains in winter.
- Use fans in front of fireplaces and wood stoves to more efficiently distribute heat; ceiling fans bring warm air down from top of the room.
- Limit the use of exhaust fans during the winter, as they suck out precious warm air.
How to Save on Snow Removal
If you have a large area to clear, it makes sense to purchase a snow blower or utilize a plowing service; if you have a small area, stick with a shovel. The costs of the snow blower and the rates you’ll pay to have it plowed will outweigh the inconvenience. If you’re not physically able to shovel, enlist a friendly neighbor and pay them back with a homemade meal or baked goods.
Rock salt can get expensive and scarce in winter, so use it sparingly — a little bit goes a long way. In many cases, proper and prompt shoveling can effectively eliminate the need for salt.
How to Save on Vehicle Maintenance
Vehicles take a beating in the winter. Check the health of your car’s battery before winter to ensure it’s prepared for the harsh winter conditions, helping you to avoid getting stranded (which will cost you towing fees). Make sure your fluid levels are topped off and that there are proper levels of antifreeze in your coolant. It’s also a good idea to keep your vehicle at least partially fueled at all times. Empty tanks are more susceptible to fuel-line freezing, which requires an expensive repair.
Ensuring there’s sufficient tread on your tires prior to winter will also potentially save you from a car accident or towing charge. Lastly, wash your car often in the winter, since salt from the roads will leave its corrosive residue on your vehicle and lower the life-span of your undercarriage and paint job.
It’s a cold one this winter, but if you follow these tips, your budget won’t be another victim of the Polar Vortex.
How has your budget been affected by the cold weather?
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