Winter On a Budget

by Vered DeLeeuw · 5 comments


Winter can get expensive! Whenever I feel the temperatures dropping, one of my first thoughts is, “Great! Back to seeing $500 each month on our utilities bill.” Heating is of course a major expense during the winter, but there are other expenses, including buying new coats for kids who have outgrown their old coats, taking the family car to the car shop to make sure it’s winter-ready, engaging in snow sports (downhill skiing can get expensive!) and even paying for indoor activities, since you can’t take the kids to the park.

With some advance planning, you CAN manage your costs during winter. These are the things that work for me as I try to keep my family’s winter-related expenses in check.

Lower Your Heating Bill

You will see this advice everywhere on the Web as winter arrives, but it really does work: by simply adding an extra layer of clothing as lowering the heater thermostat to 68 degrees F, you can save significantly. I admit that I dislike walking around the house, or working in my home office, wearing a fleece sweater over my shirt, but when I keep the house at a toasty 72 degrees, I am very much aware of the waste.

Lowering your thermostat is obviously the easiest way to lower your electricity costs in the winter. More involved ways include insulating your windows and doors. Most experts agree that the cost does repay itself quickly.

Pay Less for Winter Clothing

It goes without saying that if you have more than one child of the sane sex, items such as winter coats should be handed down from one child to the next. The same is true for the extended family – children’s coats are relatively costly, and they only wear them for a few months before outgrowing them. It just doesn’t make sense to buy new if you can avoid it.

If you must buy a new winter coat for one of your kids, try to remember to purchase it at the end of the winter season in anticipation for next year. If you didn’t get a chance to buy off-season, you can still take advantage of winter sales such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Save on Skiing

My family loves to ski. Downhill skiing can get very expensive of course, when you take into account the cost of equipment, maintaining it, ski clothes and boots – especially for the kids who outgrow them each year, and of course the cost of travel, hotel, and lift tickets.

But even here there are ways to save. We always buy the kids’ ski equipment and clothing off-season. Each year, at the end of the season, I buy their stuff for the next year. I try very hard not to buy at peak prices. We also save on lift tickets by taking advantage of special offers. A few weeks ago my husband took a car (can’t remember the brand) on a test drive because they had offered a special promotion – free lift tickets to our favorite ski resort for anyone doing a test drive (and no, he did NOT end up buying the car).

Winter Activities

I find that winter presents more temptations than usual to spend on activities that I would not have considered otherwise. Instead of taking the kids to the park (100% free), we sometimes take them to an indoors playground, where we don’t just pay the entrance fee but also tend to purchase food and drinks, at an inflated price. Winter also feels like a great time to go to the movies and to other types of shows and performances.

There’s nothing wrong with taking in a movie or a show, of course, or even with occasionally going to an indoor playground. But as a general rule, we do try to find ways to enjoy ourselves in the winter that do not necessarily cost $100 per family. This may include renting a movie instead of going to the movies, going outside to jump in puddles, baking together, and plenty of other affordable winter activities.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

KM January 6, 2011 at 8:16 am

I wish we could save on utilities (when I lived alone in a condo, I had the place at 63 degrees and just wore something warm and took baths a lot (water was unlimited in my HOA bill)), but we have a parrot and a baby in the house, so we can’t keep it at 68.

I also think that there are a ton of free activities during the winter too. It’s prime time for gathering in the living room near the fireplace to play board games or watch movies (rented, DVDs, whatever), play outside in the snow, maybe even skate a little in the street if there is enough snow (I did that when I was little and my mom and grandma held each of my hands so I wouldn’t fall), or bake or cook together, as you say. The park is also not out of the question, but your activities will vary depending on your location and the amount of snow you get.

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Lorena January 6, 2011 at 9:12 am

While I live in Southern California where it doesn’t get as cold as it does in the rest of the country, we do use the heater more since it can drop to freezing at night where we live. My husband and I have resorted to lowering the thermostat, especially at night when we’re snug in bed anyway, and doing more “homey” things, like baking and cooking together and watching streaming Netflix movies. Since we have a baby on the way, I’ve started thinking about family activities that don’t cost too much money. We already have an annual pass to our local zoo and I just found out our local library has circulating family memberships to the local children’s museum.

The great thing about the library’s service is that it’s completely free to anyone who has a library card and is good for two adults and up to four children. You just reserve it online and pick it up from your local library when you receive a notification e-mail (each branch has two memberships available at any given time). I’d really suggest folks find out if their library has something like this available and, if not, see if they can convince their local library to invest in a program like this for local families.

Of course, there are other local museums that offer free or discounted admission on certain days of the month, or during certain events. Looking for these kinds of opportunities can certainly save families money, too.

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KM January 6, 2011 at 10:06 am

Good point about the free museum days. I check the website that lists the days that are free for each museum or botanical garden and go there during those days. I am sure it will be even more beneficial when my child is old enough to enjoy them.

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Funny about Money January 11, 2011 at 3:28 am

Try cross-country skiing. It’s a lot cheaper than downhill, lots of fun, and great exercise.

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Fred Tracy January 11, 2011 at 8:02 pm

I’m being pretty frugal these days and this does help. I’ve never actually been skiing but I saw Frozen.. and it may have scared me away from it for good. Great article tho.

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