Across most of the country, it’s been quite the winter so far. We’ve had record low temperatures and unexpected weather events throughout – whether it’s been an ice storm, significant snowfall or even ice rain in many parts of our dear country. Not only is Mother Nature annoying us with the cool temperatures and inconvenience of winter, she also has wreaked havoc on the budgets of many Canadians. Sure, extraordinary circumstances may be covered by our home or auto insurance plans but there are a range of added expenses that many of us have incurred.
This winter, my family has been hit hard. Since we’re already on edge about our finances and trying to put them right it’s made me think a lot about what I could do in future to avoid these costs. Well, maybe not avoid – at least minimize them.
Here are 5 of the winter expenses I’ve identified and created some solutions on how to reduce my spending for the rest of winter 2014 and future winters too:
#1 – Unforeseen car repairs
The issue – if you’ve been driving for a while you’ll know that the winter does a number on your vehicle. With the winter we’re having now, it can be challenging for even the newest of vehicles. There is nothing worse than having an unexpected car repair pop up when its -30 C with the wind chill. I know of so many people who’ve had to fork out an arm and leg to get their cars repaired quickly so they aren’t late for work.
How to minimize the expense – it’s always better to plan ahead for the winter with a pre-winter tune-up. I used to shy away from this as I always felt that the mechanic would find something and then I’d have to pay money anyway. The old adage “don’t fix something that’s not broken” I found out, wasn’t the best when it came to prepping my car for the winter. If you fail to maintain your car year round or don’t get your car checked before the winter hits, you could end up worsening the issue and also have to pay more to get the repairs done quicker.
#2 – Home repairs
The issue - although most of any damage to your home due to extraordinary weather events should be covered by your home insurance, there are other expenses that are likely to happen. You can’t claim back money from insurance for things that are expected as part of maintaining your home. Two of the biggest issues in the winter are boilers and the state of your roof. Since your boiler will be used in excess once the temperature starts to fall you need to ensure it is OK and if you need it to be repaired or replaced, you do that before winter arrives. Neglected roof repairs can cause major issues as snow starts to fall, placing you in danger with a leaky roof right in the dead of winter.
How to minimize the expense – just as advised with your car, you should keep an eye on the state of your home before the temperatures start to drop.
#3 – Winter clothing
The issue - although this is unlikely to completely break your bank, the cost of winter clothing can add extra costs to your budget. If you’re from Canada, this shouldn’t be a total surprise to you and should be part of your annual budget. However it’s essential to realize that you will need more clothing than normal as you bundle yourself and your family up to face the elements.
How to minimize the expense – the best way to keep costs down are to buy early. Just like those thrifty shoppers who start buying Christmas gifts for the following year on Boxing Day, buying winter clothes at the end of the previous winter season is ideal. Most items at this time of year will be on sale, clearing their inventory for next spring and summer stock. So, if you buy some of the more expensive clothing items – like winter jackets, snow boots and winter sport apparel – at that time you’ll be better positioned to save dollars and cents.
#4 – Home energy costs
The issue - one of the most anticipated extra costs of winter is the rising cost of powering your home. Energy costs continue to rise and it’s important to realize that your hydro bill is going to increase as the temperatures start to drop. In Canada, we’re used to warm homes in the winter and that means pumping up the heat and using a lot more electricity than normal. This can start adding up and cause concern when you get your quarterly bill.
How to minimize the expense – it’s very important to conserve energy at all times of the day. While you’re out of the house, try to turn as much as you can off. Sure, you probably won’t disconnect your wireless modem or your TV but make sure you don’t leave too many lights on while you’re away. While you’re at home, try to adopt sensible habits too. Also try to use a timer so you can come hoe from work to a warm home but you don’t need to leave it running all day long. Try to use electricity – if you can – in one room at a time and always make sure to shut lights off in rooms you aren’t in. Many electricity providers also provide you with detailed information online about your usage – make a point in monitoring this to figure out ways to lower your usage every week.
#5 – Getting sick
The issue - one of the worst things in winter is getting sick – the common cold, the flu are all around at this time of year. Your health is more important than anything but the extra costs of over-the-counter medication and any other treatments can put a dent in your budget.
How to minimize the expense – first and foremost, focus on your health; not the cost of the treatment. However, to lower the costs, try to take preventive measures to avoid getting ill. As you should do whether winter or not, wash your hands as much as you can to lower the chances of catching an illness. The cost of hand soap is going to be a lot less compared to any medications you’ll need or lost work time. Also, I’ve found it quite useful to look to home remedies to help out. If you’ve got a severe infection you’ll probably need some doctor-prescribed drugs but if you’ve just got the common cold, a cough or something else that’s fairly common all you may need is some good ole chicken soup or a spoonful of honey.
We’re already in February so hopefully winter is in its final stages. For the remaining time of winter, try to keep some of the suggestions above in mind to improve your finances. Then, for next winter, you can be on the right path to preventing any excess stress at wintertime.