snowmanWinter is almost here and with the holidays approaching, it’s the time of year when your mind may be focused on spending instead of saving. If you want to see a sunnier spring, however, it pays to keep your budget in check all season long. Finding ways to carve out extra savings during the winter months isn’t that difficult if you know where to look. Here’s what I recommend for squirreling away cash when the weather turns cooler.

1. Be savvy about holiday shopping
Hitting the holiday sales without a budget is a recipe for disaster. Before you head out, make a list of everything you need to buy and the price. Then, compare what’s on the list to the deals at each store. Check sites like RetailMeNot and for coupons or promo codes that can lead to added savings.

If you’re using a rewards credit card to shop, check your card’s online shopping mall for discounts on the things you plan to buy. Just be sure you’re only charging what you can afford to pay in full at the end of the month. Otherwise, the interest charges will wipe out any savings you may realize.

2. Trim your energy costs
Unless you live someplace that stays relatively warm all year round, you’ll have to kick on the heat at some point. That can send your utility bills shooting up. To keep your energy costs as low as possible during the winter, try doing the following:

  • Change your furnace filter regularly since dust and dirt can make your heating system run less efficiently
  • Check around windows and doors for air leaks and seal them with weatherstripping to keep heat in instead of letting it out
  • Check air ducts for leaks and replace the insulation in your attic if needed
  • Set your thermostat a degree or two lower than you normally would and wear an extra layer of clothing so you don’t have to run the heat as often
  • Lower the temperature while you’re at work or at night and pile on the extra blankets instead
  • If you’re putting up holiday lights, consider investing in LED versions which use less energy than traditional lights
  • Close off rooms that you’re not using and shut the vents so the warm air is redirected to higher traffic areas
  • Switch from incandescent lights to compact fluorescent bulbs, which burn less energy

3. Cook in bulk
Winter is a perfect time for things like casseroles, soups and stews. Break out the crockpot or the casserole dishes and whip up meals that you can freeze and reheat throughout the week. To save on groceries, stick to seasonal ingredients that are readily available since they’ll cost you less than buying specialty items. Winter squash, for example, is fairly cheap and it works well if you’re using in soup, chili or a something like a vegetable lasagna. Broccoli, brussel sprouts, kabbage, kale, leeks, mushrooms and citrus fruit are also frugal buys if you want to eat fresh in the winter months.

4. Skip the $5 latte
If you’re a coffee drinker, you may find yourself spending more on java during the winter. To keep the cost in check, consider making your own coffee at home. If coffee’s not your thing, stock up on hot cocoa mix, tea or apple cider instead. The cost can break down to pennies instead of dollars, which can add up to a sizable chunk of change if you require a regular fix of something warm when it’s cold out.

5. Scope out cheap fun
Being stuck inside because of the cold can be detrimental to your bank account if you decide to vent your frustration by going on a shopping spree. Looking for frugal or free ways to get out and enjoy yourself is a must if saving is your goal.

Check with your local chamber of commerce to see if your hometown is offering any free events through the winter. The library is another good resource, as is your local parks and recreation department. If all else fails, you could pick up an inexpensive hobby like knitting, start a book club or just take a stroll through your neighborhood to check out the holiday lights.

6. Winterize your car
Winter is a good time to make sure your car is running properly and make some money-saving adjustments. Check your tire pressure to make sure you’ve got enough air, since low pressure can lead to a flat. Underinflated tires can also be a drain on your fuel economy. If your tires are worn or you live in an area that gets a lot of snow and ice, you might want to think about buying winter tires to handle those conditions.

Top off the antifreeze, brake fluid and windshield wiper fluid or get a complete oil change if it’s been awhile since you’ve had one. Spending a few bucks on a tune-up may be worth if if you’re worried about a breakdown draining your cash.

7. Take care of yourself
Getting sick is never pleasant, especially when it ends up costing you money because you have to miss work or you’re forking over big bucks for medicine. If you want to keep those costs as low as possible in winter, being proactive is the key. Getting a flu shot is one option if you’re worried about being felled by the flu.

To ward off the common cold, make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin C and washing your hands regularly. If you have kids, encourage them to do the same to cut down on germs.  Stay hydrated and get some sunlight every day to keep your Vitamin D levels up. The more you can do to head off sickness in winter, the less you’ll have to spend on doctor’s office visits.

How do you save money when the weather gets colder and the days get shorter?

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