We are deep into autumn here in South Africa. With winter just around the corner, now is a good time to start adjusting your budget for colder temperatures. Seriously? Absolutely. It is a fact that we live – and spend our money – differently in summer than in winter. We are less likely to go out in the evenings. We eat different food and definitely wear different clothes. Our homes require heating, and our bed’s extra blankets – which means more laundry. Once you start thinking about your winter habits, you will realise that your money habits need some tweaking too. Here are some ideas.
Let’s start by looking at expenses that are likely to increase in winter. When you are aware of them, you can plan for them:
- When it’s cold, we are all inside more. Heaters are running, lights are on and the TV, computers and tablets are all in use. People take longer showers and hotter baths. It is, therefore, no surprise that electricity is a major expense at this time of year.
- We are generally more likely to catch a cold or develop coughs and fevers. Chances are, therefore, that you will have to budget for an extra visit or two to the doctor and/or the pharmacy. It is also a good idea to take more vitamins to boost your immune system.
- You probably spend more on transport in the winter months because it’s too cold to walk, especially early in the morning or once the sun has set. It also gets darker earlier, which means that for safety reasons you are less inclined to be on foot.
- Not many fruit and vegetables grow in winter, hence the food supply from your own garden will not be as abundant as in summer.
- Your laundry-related bill is likely to increase as you buy more detergent and fabric softener to cope with the bigger loads caused by all the layers of clothes that are worn.
Fortunately, there are ways to put a break on winter expenses:
- It’s the time of year when you can cook big, hearty stews, curries and soups – the kind of dishes that are perfect for cooking in bulk because you can freeze the extra portions to eat on a different day. Not only do you save by buying fresh ingredients in large quantities, you also use the same amount of electricity (or gas) to cook enough food for two or three meals. And you save time by doing so.
- Speaking of the kitchen, when it’s cold outside and you are cooking, it is probably the warmest place in your home. What better opportunity to introduce your children to the joys of cooking and baking. As an added bonus, you won’t need to heat the rest of your home, which means you save on electricity, and you get to spend some quality time with your family. However, never use the oven as a space heater. It consumes a huge amount of electricity. Only switch the oven on when you are cooking.
- Staying indoors also gives you the perfect time to give home entertainment a try. Instead of going out in the cold and spend money at the mall, watch a movie together at home. You could even go old school and do something radical like playing a board game or building a puzzle! Again, when the whole family is in the same room, you only need one heater and one light.
- Instead of trying to heat up a room, rather heat up the people in the room. Wrapped in a blanket and sipping a hot drink or eating a bowl of soup will leave you far more comfortable than huddling around a heater. Similarly, a hot water bottle in your bed is more effective than a heater in the room.
- Make sure there are no gaps under doors or around windows where the icy winter wind can come in. Preventing cold air from entering your home, and hot air from escaping from it, is a very effective way to save money on heating costs. In the same way, insulation in the ceiling will keep the warm air from escaping through the roof.